Issue 19: Howard Wright
Hank Marvin on the homeward journey, north to west,
heart in my mouth, the train making rattling good sense
and you dying for a tea. Everyone is going somewhere –
home, high or on holiday: the bottled water
and packed lunches, the mobiles with no off-switch,
the evening news flicked in our faces, and technology
as a defence mechanism: music, always the cure of music.
Then we arrive and despondency meets us with retail brands,
slow escalators and a monstrous desk being fed queues
fidgeting back to a revolving door and the outside spangled
with an expanding universe of cigarette butts…
Hitting the bumpers of computer devilment, it’s the backstairs
to an impeccable runway and boarding by the rear steps –
do we still call the hostesses, hostesses,
their smiles as bright as landing lights? No different to us,
they want money in the till, and talk until we look up
and Eine kleine Nachtmusik takes away the sound
of the engines. Lee Marvin, you watch the pre-flight
shenanigans – circling trucks and ground staff with ears
like insect eyes – and worry a bit more. The window-sized
menu is placed across your lap. There is no price on fear.
The wind changes direction and you are lost
in the furthest hills. More fields, and in the one town,
one light on a wet street, an empty figure shaking
its empty head at what it must do to save face.
A beautiful woman, her mouth a glorious sewer.
In vino veritas. In her head she excuses herself
as we try to marry the voice to the face. Forget
the blouse, she says, it's someone else's blood.
The ventriloquist doll is a child to be controlled.
That is the greatest fear. The face fights back,
the eyes rolling over white inside the head.
The scariest monster always takes human form.
Giving head, and a life pissed up the wall.
A fall from grace. The way dreams are dispelled.
The veritable shambles she has to face
now she is really awake in an unfriendly bed.
A creature with clean nails is ahead of the game,
prowling for schoolgirls with faces like painted dolls.
No poetry in this, but you would be wrong:
the set homework is a four-line epic of their day.
Howard Wright lectures at the Belfast School of Art, Ulster University. Blackstaff Press published King of Country in 2010. Blue Murder published by Templar Press/ Iota Shots followed in 2011. He has won the Frogmore Prize twice. He was longlisted in the 2016/17 National Poetry Competition, shortlisted in the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competiton and Highly Commended in the 2017 Ver Poets Prize. Poems have recently appears in Cyphers and Abridged.