Issue 5: Nathan Thompson

birthing partners     

you begin               to be conventional

‘hold my hand’

                                          chaos is not so much foreign

as not to understand

                                so stop jumping

it’ll come        we’ll all feel natural

if we do this right

                                  High above London

love and all its particulars

         new ones were founded on

speculative ventures     

               a gravedigger donned a surplice

to read        “the cool of an afternoon shaded

apple-blossom      her veins in leaves

quiet my love      we should compete in the games”

You enter on the folded edge of a paper aeroplane, the crack in a slab open              as if you
have been waiting for years in parchment unavailable to me except through a handful of
scholars. So many numbers appear as lakes and lacunae       strings connected to a
balloon over the mountains, the sea, heading towards a decision.

so says the constable at Traitor’s gate

gentleman-thief of bacteria

heading back towards the Thames

absolutely saturated as someone else

himself admits (by way

of a warning)        ‘this is garish

and exquisite’       we find compassion delineated

in the creases on exhumation      the jumble of

rent sex and pillows offered fresh off the boat 


your feet face me now as you tumble

who was it       that bad scientist

the inveterate juggler who realised he was standing

on nobody’s shoulders and had such a fright

knowing the competition at hand

he let go and things fell out

from nuclei and places they shouldn’t

he was soon a tourist attraction in his own right

‘No cemetery in London can boast so many natural beauties’

and we wonder why       ‘you don’t have to be Einstein’

 I pull a wire to see what happens. In uniform male and female enquire with concern        why        it was
necessary to pull the wire. They give me things to fold instead              creases in speech

and still          the whispers’ attitude            is it enough

‘many set sail for earthly competition but not all’    

wisdom written on the blades of a television paddle-boat

too big and not deep enough         cut/flick/and switch

rain rips out flower after flower

in a startling exhibition of tooth and claw

raising the temperature     contracting

fulfilling the scripture        ‘only those who labour

hard and compete well’

                                                                  waiting for jaws to open we

bite empty the angles of silence

and night      sidled to by dimmed lamps

it made no difference of course      the moth

in the vaults equally confused confessed to seven

historic murders only one of which

had been depicted cinematically

‘Tower Green on 19 May’           we should therefore

compete that we may all be crowned


a whistle enters the darkness

        surprised by phosphorous

        where mechanical escalators are on standby

in a garden of hollyhocks         the portrait of a girl


                     you know

what this is of course        it has

been going on a long time

we should at least come close to it     

the symphonic         a trademark

appeal for loneliness 

Why is everybody standing around in surplices? Why the jump-cuts and flowers, long
teeth locked in longer faces piercing your own eyes when she smiles? We should not
forget today of all days when it comes to naming        how the entrance was rolled away
leaving only a stone.

what happens

will leak into the soil and contaminate

nearby water supplies               you recall the earliest

pagan ceremonies         for example the bloody-minded stoicism

that had seen Londoners through the black death’s

one old lady from the East End who shook her fist at the heavens

declaring that she had survived the Luftwaffe

and would decide when it was time for her to go

but we arrive

accompanied by letters cards and candles

replicated up and down the land

many watch on giant screens

which read most conventionally     

there will be a spectacle for all to see

a circulation of blank pages

pushed under every door       loving today       only

none of it at all         little stories or white lies       pictures taken as it happens

[Sources: The Letter of 2 Clement (Trans. Bart D. Ehrman) and Necropolis: London and its Dead by Catherine Arnold.]

Nathan Thompson lives in Jersey but won't soon.  His most recent collections are A Haunting, a sequence of lipogrammatic sonnets, from Gratton Street Irregulars and Holes in the Map from Oystercatcher Press. The Arboretum Towards the Beginning was published by Shearsman Books in 2008.