Sunday, 18 December 2011

w. n. herbert

The Working Self

the naked man with the briefcase

descending three flights of lighthouse stairs

his neckmuscles held by a hatstand of stress

and a new version of the Inferno blackening his cerebellum

in which the only dead are his poetic texts

and those of all the writers he has ever loved

wanting to be asleep with all the fervour of the truly middle-aged

is not

the naked man running into

the midnight sea at Teignmouth

wiht the surprisingly large breasted girl

he will not sleep wiht later in the sand

all the car-loads of friends all following The Wedding Present

from gig to gi allstoned and half-undressed and

sleepily silenusian in the cold cupping sand

is not

the student standing with a white furred uvula in

the campanile of his newly-smoking throat

before the galvanised facade of Milan cathedral

on his first morning in Italy, before visiting the Brera, the Uffizi,

focusing on the lens as it falls from his spectacles and smashes

on the delicious pasticeria of the paving stones

is not

the seventeen year old staring at Rossetti’s

loganberry compote of a dream of Dante and the corpse of Beatrice

remembering the final cold corner bust up by the bridge

by the Post Office where he stood for hours knowing

she would never feel the need to come back

not knowing that he would never speak to her again or know

her whereabouts or children or the moment of her death

is not

the boy visiting a grandfather

he hadn’t seen so long he almost had begun

to think of him as dead and dreamed about it endlessly

after the rapidly-following death

the slow hand touching the bandaged throat, the querulous witty voice

the dark, conspiratorial spectacles, always

not dead after all but still with him, talking

is not

the boy who dreamt that all his classmates sat in darkness in

a circle and the circle was so large it seemed to contain

all the people of the multis at Trottick, all the people in Dundee

perhaps all the people in Scotland and in the centre was a figure,

cowled like a monk, roating in the darkness with an index finger

pointing and revolving like a planet in an orrery

and when the figure pointed straight at him

woke up in the dark moon-streaked fourth-floor bedroom for the first time

clearly alone

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