The Rainbow Factory

The facts are important:
earlier today jihadi bombers fast-tracked
themselves to paradise in Brussels airport.
TV kept showing a man, his leg blown off
propped on an elbow blinking at his watch
like his flight was unaccountably delayed.

New York at Ground Zero:
the day is sunny with medium wind chill,
the pollen count high for the time of year,
mostly maple, lime and juniper.
At the 9/11 Memorial they’re recycling
all the tears that ever fell and still fall,
over black slate walls in sparkling nets
though which young rainbows play
with difficulty, practicing colour like scales.
No pot of gold, just a fathomless hole.

Advisory signs say:
VISITORS ARE INVITED TO TOUCH
THE MEMORIAL NAMES PANEL.
Some stroke. Some brush. Some poke.
Some finger trace what they fear to lose
because what has a name cannot die
under this sky torn to wild blue ribbons
by all the bright new banks.

The South Tower:
with the heel of my hand
I rub and press the raised brass letters
ENGINE 6. NEW YORK FIRE DEPT.
as if there was some dumb luck in it,
celebrating neither death nor life
but the clattering ladder in between.
Back on TV, they’re herding up suspects
who only lived round the corner.

This is the title poem of Mark’s full collection, available after 27.9.16 from Templar Poetry here  http://templarpoetry.com/products/the-rainbow-factory

 

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The personal effects of Don Estanislao

When they are gone
they leave chairs in attitudes of conversation
while the words shuffle off to another room.
Only his silhouette stays, etched over decades
in light upon velvet, a still life with El Pais,
toothpicks and toffees lost between cushions.

The shutters are worn out
with looking beyond the far fields that dissolve
into milk through the copper lip of trees.
His thumb has rubbed down the brown gloss
to a keen patch of grain, whorled like an eye
keeping watch from the wood.

Perhaps you know
of a charity shop that will take the shepherdesses
boxed up in the hall with their porcelain swains?
Somewhere there’s a silent family that needs
a wall of encyclopaedias from 1972 (volume K
pressing a gardenia to its heart).

The dial has broken,
so long has the bedside radiogram been tuned
to the same station, short-waving like him
between Hilversum and Madrid, twitching
with static and meds as the military bands
tramp along behind, warless and triumphant.

Freefall

She takes him up to the 32nd floor
in London’s hard money district
to celebrate the big day at a restaurant
significantly closer to Heaven.
The protuberances of high finance
poke through cloud, chrome-ribbed:
the cigarette lighter, the vibrator,
the Ladyshave, the vast dictaphone,
all the naff caboodle of an 80’s playboy
or some gargantuan James Bond
who’s just tossed the lot away.
Vertigo zip wires from his calves
to his gut to the sirenscape below
as they toast the Anniversary.
She’s the one with a head for heights.
For him, it’s the perfect altitude
for another assisted crash landing
while she circles over the big stuff:
kids, house, holidays, hormones
the lack of public hand-holding.
THE COMPLETE FAILURE
TO HOLD FUCKING HANDS.
The Szechuan signature dishes
undress in his shuttered mouth
but none of the words will come.
Eastwards, along the brown river,
brass cymbals of sunlight crash
over mansion blocks and stadiums,
carparks, markets and stockyards,
over all the choked roads that head
everywhere but to this ledge.
He presses his palm into hers.
Their fingers steeple to a summit.
A thousand feet up, his life still beats
to every breathless second of her.

Runner-up in the Ware Poet’s Prize 2016

Coarse fishing with the President

“Why the bare chest Mr Putin?”

Behind us, salmon bounce the falls
sideways, backwards, upside down,
flipping as if the rocks were sizzling.
He’s giving me that whipped dog look.

“You must feel the sun upon your heart.
It is Russian sun so it makes you strong
like a bear or a city or a larch.”

Anti-machismo snow starts to fall
in big doily cake shop flakes
that fade on his oh-so-tattoo-able torso,
slippery clean as a hard-boiled egg.

The salmon now vault like acrobats
in harlequin jackets flashing on and off.
Putin slips down his camouflage fatigues
to silver underpants, legs like trees.

“In Russia, our fish don’t swim,
They dance. All animals dance by law.
Even our donkeys and foxes.”

Now we’re at the abyss, how will he fish?
A rod and fly, maybe strangulation?
A couple of grenades would do the job
although crossbow is more his style.

But it’s too late. A spiked fin protrudes
from his chest and rainbow scales glitter
around his neck and scalp. His feet
splay out into a mottled fan.

The President of the Russian Federation
scythes through the thundering spume
to gavotte around a pink bellied sockeye
who Merkels back with quivering gills.

 

Runner-up in the 2016 London Book Fair Poetry Competiton
sponsored by Impress Books

Elderflowers

You showed us how to prove love was true
even in wintertime by holding a snow drop
to your wrist so it would glow like a pearl.
The bloom now lies just under your skin,
roots tapped into losses and shared mercies,
budding violet and petalled under the eye,
a rash of rose and fuschia asters threading
down the cheek, matching slurred lipstick,
the daisy stare after your sundowner meds,
a general tendency to magnolia in all things.
The scent teeters between pee and lillies
as your hands flutter like cabbage whites,
lavender veins so close to flowering again.

Finalist, Wenlock Poetry Prize 

Elvis Everywhere

My first Elvis was Chinese,
Jade Palace, Old Kent Road.
He made a hen party of us all,
his joylucky thrusting, sideburning
the joint in a white hot jump suit.
Only a microphone kept him alive
above the faraway tide of
“Are you lonesome tonight?”
as hollow as a fortune cookie.

Welsh Elvis was the real deal.
He sneered out “Hound Dog”
prop forward lips burst as crackling
at a wedding in Aberystwyth
where knickers flew in thanks.
Later at a howling bus stop
we found him feeding pigeons
with sausage rolls and vol au vents
he’d sneaked out in his wig.

There’s only one Munich Elvis.
He does “Wooden Heart” online
with hand actions like a marionette
varnished with Hawaiian Tropic.
The bio says he works for BMW
and loves to water ski with friends.
He’s married to Priscilla who runs
the Malibu Nail Bar off Karlsplatz.
He takes all major credit cards.

Homeless Elvis is Mr Showbiz.
He sleeps around Charing Cross
but comes from Govan via Basra.
Every evening his masterquiff rises
beyond the reach of mortal comb,
whorled and tapered like a unicorn,
dazzling with Brylcreem and starlight.
He never sings but his cardboard sign
says Viva Las Vegas.
Commended in the 2016 Bristol Poetry Prize

7 Days

It’s snowing David Bowie
one humdrum Sunday later.
Slow ashen clown drops
unsettling everywhere
over South London.
Death’s the kabuki next door
with its masks and mime,
its dark carpet demanding
you scatter more stars
so the end makes sense
which it will if you’re there
standing by the wall.