Three poems from Excisions (Waterloo Press 2011)
Knowing the prognosis
After the third pink gin,
a glow like the aura of Christ
fills his kitchen, his house.
He lunches alone at the table,
shrimps downed with Sauternes,
but everything hammers and aches.
Aspirin, codeine, valium, so beautiful
these white stepping stones,
the places they take him
slow and easy with whisky and soda.
Straying from room to room,
he relives parties, the memories
thickening now, with morphine.
Here’s Venus stretched out nude
on the sofa, smooth as a sister,
a daughter. How he wants her,
how he needs to hear her voice
like rain on water.
My father’s thesaurus
You’ve scored your name in black ink
on the cover. But the spine’s
uncracked. No corners creased,
no bus tickets or receipts
signposting thoughts you tracked.
Holding the book softly
as I might a sick bird,
I stroke its fore-edge with my thumb,
coax dark openings
where you must have looked:
Latency, Guilt, Endearment, Distortion.
And what did you desire
from ‘Abstract Relations’ –
Identity, Union, Bond?
Without you here to lip-read
the entries, I might never understand.
They follow him down her favourite path,
his right hand smoothing cobweb hair, his left
swinging the blue-striped Tesco bag.
His golf shoes bruise the leaves, he talks
of a holiday in the Algarve.
At last, the end of the hollow way –
the field beyond seems the right place,
where woods peel back to sky,
where salt and gulls blow in from the sea.
By the fence, he says. They stand.
He takes from the bag
five white polystyrene picnic pots.
We’ll each scatter some of her
here, he says. That’s fair.
Clare Best’s first poetry publication Treasure Ground (HappenStance 2009) resulted from her residency on an organic farm in the Lincolnshire fens. Her first full collection, Excisions (Waterloo 2011) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre prize for best first collection. Excisions includes the autobiographical sequence, Self-portrait without Breasts, which Clare has developed for performance alongside photographs by Laura Stevens. In 2012 she presented this work in Boston, Toronto, Exeter and Brighton. A pamphlet Breastless (Pighog 2011) supports the project.