Two poems by Mark Fiddes

An Early Swim

She cuts down her lane like scissors through blue silk
with barely a snip; her deft turn at each end is a stitch.
One morning, she will rise from the ladder, the pool
draped over her shoulders like a cape of kingfishers.

He rolls like a barrel of vintage port cast overboard,
his crawl Shakespearean in its comedy and slaughter
causing small weather events and tile grout erosion.
His breast stroke venerates a torso of many bosoms.

Together, they leave behind a fresh pigment in the air
brushing the bellies of low birds with aquamarine.
She cycles off, helmet first, into the budding day
while his car awaits, sore-eyed and smelling of dairy.

(Early Swim was highly commended in the 2018 Poets and Players Prize)

The Correct Use of Saints

In the crimson satin lobby
a quartet saws through Schubert
like angry Victorian dentists.
A breakfast separates you and I.
We wait for one of us to turn up
and jump start the weekend
with a word or sudden kindness.
You order poached. I’m fried.
A waiter buttoned like a hussar
brings us a German newspaper
on a staff, stiff with home affairs.
I suggest we see the Bruegels.
Enough of painting, you say.
I mention the famous tapestries.
You tell me I’m missing the point.

Drawn by the city’s stone gravity
we drift down to the riverside,
to the bridge covered with chains
and bright padlocks left by lovers,
scratched with hearts and arrows.
A cruiser slips under the arches.
On deck, knots of tourists wave
to us as if we were somewhere
on the map like the city’s saints
on plinths beside us in dark robes,
holding up their electric lamps
still flickering even in daylight.
You lever my hand from the rail,
asking if I still believe in miracles.
“What else is there?” I reply.
You must believe in something.

(The Correct Use of Saints was published in the first edition of Strix)

Mark Fiddes has published a full collection The Rainbow Factory and a pamphlet The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre both with Templar Poetry. He’s a recent winner of the Ruskin Prize and Domineer Festival Prize as well as being runner up in the Bridport Prize and Poetry Society Stanza Prize, among many others. His work has appeared in The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, Iota, Strix and many numerous anthologies. Twitter @fiddesmark