Friday 21 September 2018

Two Poems by Michael W. Thomas

Michael W. Thomas’s most recent novel is Pilgrims at the White Horizon.  His poetry collections include Batman’s Hill, South Staffs (Flipped Eye, 2013) and Come to Pass (Oversteps, 2015).  His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Critical Survey and the TLS.  In 2015, his novella, ‘Esp,’ was shortlisted for the UK Novella Award.  His latest titles are Early and Late: Poems and Images (with Ted Eames, Cairn Time Press), and The Portswick Imp: Collected Stories, 2001-2016 (Black Pear).  He is currently working on Nowherian, the memoir of a Grenadian traveller. 


And there were times
when he was someone’s someone.
The air then was clean upon the days,
showed faithfully the smoke of whispers.

The pavements were as wide
as a hope on waking,
each evening struck the sun to its reddest
as chimney and tree grew against it.
Later, the moon would raise a brow
as if in surprise at its ancient blessing.

He was someone’s someone,
excess to name and date of birth,
never going lost in the Sunday lands – 
at least for some improvised while.

Over is longer to say than happen.
Each time it came for him
he was back as in a rental
a moment before the expiry of terms,
nothing only a phone on a shelf
by a book of codes for strangers.

Now he is no-one’s,
lives within his own breath
and makes discoveries for one.
No matter.  He has known otherwise,
could still call up a daystar or two
for chase-and-tag behind his gaze.

Instead he looks upon a Monday world
with a middling cast of sky,
sees all the unshaped forms that hurry there – 
shrugs, makes a silence of himself, 
steps in.  

Housemaid on Fire

‘Thank God, he’s still breathing.  Get water!’
The girl works her lips,
repoints her urgency: ‘Now, idiot!’
Her words set the housemaid on fire,
hurl her from the room. In the kitchen
Cook’s jug leaps in a slop at her frontage.

A bad go.  But in time, as always, 
the demons loose the baronet
so, in the far forest of his mind,
he can stumble-slither back through no man’s land,
flop into the trench and live again.

‘I’ve no doubt, my lady,’ says the doctor,
just arrived, ‘that you handled all with eclat.’
She gives him a proper dimple
as he dips about his gladstone bag,
notices the soaked and trembling maid:
‘More water here, girlie – at the double!’ 

Soon the baronet will be right as rain,
will again venture a hand below stairs,
know the worth of a chortle, a horse, 
a discreet consultation in Jermyn Street.

And the housemaid, still damp,
will sit in The Feathers, watch the clock-hands
as they work into the evening nick by nick,

will hope that Gerry won’t be late,
though she knows it depends 
which broken bits of him have charge 
of the light in his eyes,

will write steerage in the table slops
and dream of the day she sees
another fire-maker, sightless and tall                        
on Bedloe’s Island, torch high
over a snake of faces tired to the death,

will pray she won’t herself 
look poor and huddled when they dock, 
having already selected that best blue
of Auntie Vi’s, and Mum’s locket also,

will pray too that Gerry hasn’t told a soul,
as she has not, and is right about the milk train
stopping at the halt tomorrow dawn.

Note: By Act of US Congress, Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island in 1956.

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