A Stag Leaps in Clapham Library

 

The forensic lighting systems are Swedish

They’ve won smart design awards for Lambeth

Almost everywhere, except Lambeth

 

Here the poetry shelves show a different dust

Yellow and waxy, pollen of all the poor poets

Who defied aerodynamics for honey

 

I’m about to browse Adventure or Crime

Before meeting the family therapist

When a familiar spine bends towards me

 

Laminated like an endangered species

This Stag’s Leap has never leapt the steep ravine

Into the hands of a Clapham taxpayer

 

The date has been smudged on the inside cover

A purple kiss the day after Valentine’s

And not a single moistening finger since

 

Nor guilty speck of biscuit, splash of merlot

Hasty pornographic in bleeding biro –

Not one of life’s insistent underlinings

 

Yet here I hold a forgiveness of verse

As vast and tearful as the Earth, melting

With the subtle climate change of couples

 

Balming, not blaming, anchored never angered

Words that judge nothing but the crush of shingle

And the emptiness of remembered pockets

 

Later, I ask the shrink if he reads poems

He withdraws the phallic symbol from his mouth

And reminds me we only have an hour

 

Commended in the Philip Larkin Poetry Prize 2014