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MZ

Poem for England

I prefer the old translations
sometimes instead of the printed words 
I am distracted 
by small blue stars
and sentences she wrote 
earnestly many years ago
in pen in the margins
this same book she carried
under her arm or in a bag 
up some steps and sat down 
in the library and worried
something extremely important 
would happen or not 
and now I have taken it
down from the shelf 
and when some god 
in it speaks winged elaborate 
phrases though I am modern 
it feels necessary to me
hello England are you there
I said into the plastic telephone
one of those old ones
I bought at a tag sale
no, I had it from long ago
the sound pulses somehow used to run
through a long plastic cord
attached to the wall
moving the tiny ear bones
in Massachusetts where the pilgrims
landed one summer
England we think 
we are modern our language
some kind of harmful
blue green despair fire
covering the globe
some very new galaxy
everyone else is watching
through telescopes our altruistic scientists
invented explode but really 
we are very old
and you are young
you are our very old baby
we are pretending to neglect
for your own good
it has grown darker
let us turn back to the book
now we are just touching its pages
everyone in it died a long time ago 
trying to get home

SR

Poem for an American bedroom

My friend says we have more ways
of saying things than things to say,
but has never used this in a poem
so it's okay that I've stolen it.
Anyway, I don't know if it's a problem -
I unplugged the phone when we moved house
and walked it down the street,
hoping you would overhear
the desultory exchange I was enjoying,
or sometimes reading at the station
I start to slip into your accent
and this changes everything -
I'd like to arrange a silent reading
of the same book in different cities
as maybe knowing it was happening
would make us both more certain of our feelings.
I suppose I could have swapped the phone
for tin cans and a piece of twine
and paid a child to run the line
over zigzags of street corners
and lift the haunted radio alive
with crackles to the ears of strangers
and even if I cut the cord with scissors
the thing would stay there, an echo held in air
like the first idea of a piano,
a piano at the zero level.
I like to think a poem
is like keying in a set of numbers
and waiting for the phone to ring
in some bedroom in America.
I have feelings of tenderness and anger
to communicate, nothing to tell you
but things friends said
in unintentional moments of brilliance,
so it was good to hear the dial-tone splutter
when I planted the cable in the new house,
as it was to learn a different pause
between the rings, that someone's
coming home from a long-distance drive,
and drinking from the tap while outside
her white clothes reach their sleeves
towards the windows, my feelings
of tenderness and distress are urgent,
plaintive, an unfamiliar flowering,
they need more ways of saying nothing,
pick up, the line's not quite cut dead,
like at night if a child cries out
for seemingly no reason, the moment after,
when you're not sure how serious this is yet.

MZ

Poem for California

when she leaves 
for work I feel
I have forgotten 
something but still 
remember the way 
to the lake 
where I fell
one very cold night 
many years ago
I used to walk 
with someone else
our skates thrown 
over our shoulders
were we pretending 
to be kids? I still 
wasn't sure I resided
anywhere in particular
the very cold city 
had in its own 
way welcomed me
though I was still 
saying goodbye 
to everything
later that spring
after the operation
for most of the day
she was at work
it seemed ok
I didn't understand
the process healing
my broken ankle
those long afternoons
I limped through 
the neighborhood
we lived near a museum
it was always quiet
early one evening 
she said the radio
was haunted
I was pouring wine
my hand was shaking 
like it has for years
I didn't want to know
anything at all
now all that matters
is how this feeling
can be useful
some dark anger
lives in the trees
I want to see it
I swivel my head
very hungry 
to see what everyone's 
life is like 
maybe an owl
it took me two tries
to move all my shit
to California
it's a big country
Sam have you been?
it's actually 
at least two states
north is terribly
lonely green
hills and also yellow
grasses with blue
water glimpses
when you get closer
the Pacific is not 
peaceful at all
little towns are
peaceful that is
surrounded by ancient
trees that even
if you are not spiritual
seem to listen
even I with my tiny
black heart am changed
if you come visit
it will be awkward
I'll make some chili
Sarah will be nice
last night I dreamed
my scar was pulsing
when I woke
this morning it hurt
I can't believe
that's my only problem

SR

The following California

will be different
it will include LA
and won't be filmed
though it might be cool
to do a tracking shot
through Halloween
as long as there are no
still images of skulls
I'm interested only
in speeding footage
downward motion 
America loves cars and films
it's how the mind drives 
and why we write 
the way the road is shot 
and seen but let's not pause
I drew a big eye
on a piece of card
so I didn't have to look
too hard at San Francisco
I was worried
then not worried
about its authenticity
like a museum re-creation
everything felt themed
with suspicious gaps
in the scenery
we did the ocean drive
at night in daylight 
seeing half-built structures 
in the paranoid desert 
I touched the city's sides
with coincidences 
too trivial to repeat
like your poem being 49 lines 
and their football team
being called the 49ers
or that the scar 
on my forehead is itching
my mother said
beware of coincidences
these are just facts chafing
should I call it
The Zapruder Reel
or is that in poor taste
like dressing-up as 9/11
for Halloween
you must be high
the barmaid said
as her hand swooped in
to collect our tall glasses
and so we were
at the start of California
I had a mimosa
and an orangey burp
at the end of California
Brooke said 'so this
is my apartment in the East Bay'
now I sit here in England 
forging your style
not wearing 
the 'San Francisco' t-shirt
I bought in Cambridge 
in America I wouldn't wear it
where my felt-tip eye 
saw every day a tall girl
in a red check shirt
and I learnt to walk like
there was a film crew 
behind me who pointed out
there is no grand narrative
just this massive documentary

MZ

Poem for happiness

the dead spider rested on my windowsill
using one piece of paper I pushed it
onto another piece of paper
then dropped it accidentally
behind some old paint cans next to the door
the orange tulips you gave me
for a second seemed to be in a mostly nice way
laughing as I bent down
wearing dishwashing gloves a blue
colour not found in nature
in order to find the little brown body
that was for primal reasons
horrifying me and stand in the doorway
and hold it out in front of me
to the wind which even if everywhere else
in the city it is calm
rushes down our street
where the yellow Kawasaki
is always parked next to the green bin
I threw the candles we can’t light anymore
into because their wicks are gone
and you cried because
I had thrown out the beautiful candles
everything becomes suddenly chrome
then the sun turns in a different direction
and now I am thinking on a hillside
where the wind is blowing very strongly
we will get married
our future a long sunny avenue
we have already walked part way down
or a pink umbrella
or a very loud water feature
in the middle of the city
around it on a concrete ledge
the workers sit next to each other
even though they do not know each other
and read silently together and alone

SR

Poem in the dark

mm isn't it funny in films 
when they say "hang on
this isn't a movie" or even
"c'mon man it's the 1970s" 
that little nod beyond the screen
it ruins everything for me 
the actor is a liar with 
a liar's face a liar's insistence 
keeping his story straight 
nevermind if nobody says that
you can't test this with anything 
but an equivalent uncertainty 
okay what if I tell you
I am writing this in 1989
opposite the Taj Mahal
as large ferns shade my diary
with their wingprints and actors
screaming "this isn't a movie" 
are defenestrated the text
is dense you can't trust it
knowing something of the world
it's like the lights are out
and you must listen to my voice
tasting the grey coffee in it 
I was born in Hiroshima 
on the first day of the year
my real name is not decided
and signs me as your co-star
do you suppose I could be real
like the answers in your email
okay stay still a minute
let's try to see what's here
looking almost invisible 
between the windows 
retouched like a tall blur 
on the edges of a photo
not forgiven by your focus 
nor giving away your face 
to anything that's real or fake 
but in this long 'room' somewhere 
like a roofless carriage on a train
you can see the trees and lanterns 
at the stations speeding overhead 
in this long room blown with sun 
our feelings are waiting for each other 
okay I have stepped into the next one 
to say goodbye and even if 
you've seen it before to describe 
to you its many sources of light.