Two poems by Joey Connolly

A Restaurant

It’s possible now we’ve broken up you’ll never
understand my consuming respect for your way
of dissecting a subject, the way in your mouth disgust
at an ideology comes free of its disciples, in your

just apportioning of blame, and actually just like
how things discussed get less
commensurate with themselves. You take a seat,
so easy, so little implicated in the glee with which language

uncouples its meal of tautologies, unknits reference
from referee from all those
grainy things-in-themselves hunching like thieves
among the shadows. How prettily the chain dissolves:

think of sweetcorn picked particle by particle
from its husk, the noumenal waste of cob at its centre,
each tooth of corn coming away at the delicate
careful angling of an incisor, I’ve always

been astounded at the way you eat. Every theory, every
move to abstraction, you are emphatically
demonstrating, as our dinner things are cleared, is an elegance
and a deference, is a mechanism of defence.


I retreat from the photoey moment captioned
by the dessert menu into the series of men
stepping back from the basins of the gents, dealing
with the hand they’ve been dealt in the dull mirrors.

Returning to the table and your hair is poising itself
above your neck like a grade I haven’t deserved.
Your sorbet is being served but like hell
will it stop you now – and as I listen

I watch the chandeliers, their cheap intricacies
made visible by the light which they themselves provide,
and I agree with you –

and maybe if we could eschew this arbitrary
linguistic distinction I am/I do
we could finally be forced into confronting
the complexity of action and its

identity with the origins of action; if we could just
bundle those serpentine questions
of motivation and want
into some ill-defined realm shielded

from the glare of the country’s
dustily tenured epistemologians
by the tautological unknowableness
of the unconscious, maybe then

the proper etiology of responsibility could be
widened to include society in its share, words theirs,
the rolling impersonal contingent calculations
of desire its own. It’s a perfect unfolding

schematic of haecceity, this
situation, in which you
broke my heart, and
fuck you for not realising it.

The evening’s falling airplane-slow, and so
I burn myself in sweet and sorry sloe.
With loose Demosthenes ablaze my tongue
I lash to life the Philip of my Macedon.

I pace the cuttled aisles of thought, the place
and counter-place my tramp delineates
to state the case against me: well-meant, drunken,
and simpler than the harm I hate. Duncan,

MacDuff: pretenders to eponymy;
signposts of goodwill’s savage entropy;
and dull as hell. The conquered hero falls,
an emptied bottle, as the plot begins

to gall, the pacing skew. The planes, the gin,
the glass diminuendo of the life examined.

Joey Connolly grew up in Sheffield and studied in Manchester. Now he lives in London, where he is the manager of the Poetry Book Fair. His poetry and criticism have appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Sunday Times and Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt), as well as on BBC Radio 4. He received an Eric Gregory award in 2012, and his first collection, Long Pass, is published by Carcanet. Twitter @joeyrconnolly