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Two Poems


The Power

Forget all of that end-of-the-pier
palm-reading stuff. Picture a seaside town
in your head. Start from its salt-wrack-rotten smells
and raise the lid of the world to change the light,
then go as far as you want: the ornament
of a promenade, the brilliant greys of gulls,
the weak grip of a crane in the arcades
you've built, ballrooms to come alive at night,
then a million-starling roost, an opulent
crumbling like cake icing ...
                                          Now, bring it down
in the kind of fire that flows along ceilings,
that knows the spectral blues; that always starts
in donut fryers or boardwalk kindling
in the dead hour before dawn, that leaves pilings
marooned by mindless tides, that sends a plume
of black smoke high enough to stain the halls
of clouds. Now look around your tiny room
and tell me that you haven't got the power.


The Milk Nostalgia Industries

When they send the fleet of floats into the dawn
you know they're trading in covert nostalgia.
When the empties tinkle and the motor strains
you know it's more than milk delivery.
The clean, reflective words parlour and dairy
can be squeezed for something far more nourishing.
Parlour in particular can yield
Jane Austen sitting on a milking stool
with a natty teat technique; that and a pail
each jet rings into, soft lit, in an English field.

And dairy draws on road maps' blank regions,
where sewage works and abattoirs and stud farms
exist as in original outlines
drawn up in Milk Nostalgia Head Office.
They say that down its corridors are rooms
where every bottled note left out is filed
before joining the archives underground.
Remember when we took the audio tour
to look upon this great, lost literature
writ in last-thing-at-night's forgotten hand?

Ah, the tour. The very milk of homesickness
was handed to us in warm tetra-paks,
and we felt our headphones fill with the white hiss
of the world speeding up. The milk turned black
as bull's blood, but before we reached the end
each saw their own arcades and galleries:
my father was down there, blowing on the skin
of boiling milk to calm its head of steam,
and my mother carrying a glass lit from within
to bed. And then the gift shop, full of cheese.


Paul Farley

The Dark Film
Picador


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