Issue 25: Luke Roberts
Part of me thinks who cares
who cares, looking for the button getting lost.
If you can’t pour it out like a human decanter
the least you can do is shut up.
There’s no escape hatch dickhead in the winter forgiveness
like a problematic woodcut or the lapidary style
or any boyish optimist attending to his plants.
Where’s the style go? Who took it for
granite, who took it to quartz?
The breeze was always limb of storm
but no-one noticed, hooting
about looting as the air changed hands
and we were finally something complete.
What the waste of my time was embraced.
Could have stopped to steal red apples
but we didn’t. Despair, adventure,
the law of life. That nice purple flower
is nemesia. That lilting golden moped
is a moped.
That guy who hurt his feelings over email.
I take it all: the Haliborange, the cherries,
the Ferrero Rocher. When you finish
you’re more personal, more errant
more liable to error, you are conscious
you are teeming with success.
A woman on crutches in the park.
By the end of the year I will be fluent,
discouraged, wrung dry of all intent.
‘Socketted into the universe, and passionately
A lavender hexagonal,
like sawdust given meaning.
Don’t call me again.
Don’t look it up.
That nice tree is a cypress
and I am still a devotee of sap.
That nice sap is a devotee of theeeeory
that big lung has a thing
for sitting down.
Switch places and look at it
this way: your workplace was always
unsafe, even if it makes you feel
ashamed to say so.
The room around you atrophies,
gigantic, ancient, and moving.
The harbour car park.
The heavy sleepers.
And the face mask
hurts my face.
A deer in a wheatfield,
leaping in the sun.
Nothing anymore encrypted,
just the basics.
Shit like England’s Helicon
and some second-hand Li Po.
I’ve been staying very still.
It’s called living in a city,
and running past the bookshops
in the peak Julyest sun
to snow and love
to screens there’s no such thing
and sung this through a phone a phone
to anyone who’d listen
and miss my friends
don’t tell them so so I can keep
the feeling keep from feeling
Some don’t some didn’t
some none of them said,
saying sorry to the spirit pushing fifty,
unrepentant, of the age, of the podcast
and what passes for scandal astringent,
for belated gothic fakers
for the pseudo youtube Florizel
whose name couldn’t conjure
whatever punishment he wanted
unfurled the cramp,
the streamers, who the story belongs to
tokens on a stump
made it harder to ignore.
All the skills kept snapping off,
in the graveyard, where they come to score
and scatter, in the corner,
where the trees are tender shelter
would you write them a sestina
like a settled bet on milk-tops
and other shit you fill the house with
The Prison and the Factory
The Transmemberment of Song
and who caters to the yellow ferns
in elevated gutters, perfect cloud control
to surface plastic, no giveaway, no playback
sudden amenable ransack
You can’t go back you can’t go back
and always I in disagreement throw it out,
advice, whatever kept happens to be useless,
abandoned, OK if you’re school, OK
if you’re church
but I’m not church or school. OK.
Slices of. Corners of. Don’t think at all
slapped the blanket.
And it seemed,
suddenly, that the flakes were flaking off
and I was part of it, apart in a knot
attentive and several, inclined,
with my trips on display, my pointed hands,
and a magnet for freely composing:
you are the flavourless gum I want to chew
in the field of plausible errors
snorting caffeine and alpine refreshments
to echo-locate with the others, the table-top
the masquerade, the overweening powers
the lectures I was tired of and the mammoth
task ahead, the pliers for touching plywood
and the plumber’s special wrench
and the woodsman with the woodsman’s axe
and the fishes in the fishing catch
I saw a sparrow kill a man
and nazi poets fuck off
I saw a piece of caramel
and nazi poets fuck off
I saw a speeding light in sternum fervour
complicate the awkward rapture
in the worst of recent measures
to give the South Coast my regards
that means it’s over, yank a ringpull,
spitting in the vineyard, spitting
on the castle
when Dover sinks into the sea
I will be happy, I will be overjoyed
returning to the car park
where we watched the marching soldiers
and salting our food with it
smearing the page with it
always going for the sweet spot
equal parts texture and light
and the plain embarrassed standbys
who fell on the hurdles and tore them apart
it was strawberries and cream
and arnica gel, and a first-class ticket
And now he points his slingshot
at my head. And how he points his rifle
at his dog. And now he hands his lawyers
a demand. The bath-time of heroes
comes under his command.
I was obliquely involved in the movement.
I’m what you call a ‘fellow traveller’
or a flake. All I wanted was preludes
And if you try to sharpen
on the face of a friend
you tend to deplete
the achievement statuesque.
Take this away from me and never give it back.
The petulant spoil it like milk. The brilliant
go off like cream. The meek get a seat
at the table. The mawkish get sawed into two.
In Carlisle the autumn evaporates.
The River Eden is a shitty river.
But every name you get you get to keep,
paying homage to the Civic Centre
where everything’s outside, it’s all outside.
Those people don’t get it.
That people don’t get it.
I got stuck, unstuck, and then got stuck again.
When it’s night-time in the province
I lose track.
Of the nail file, the ambulance,
the sweeping, the water.
And when will you ever
You can have anything you want
on the menu.
You belong in the small drawer,
next to the blankets. A wild song barking
in the night.
Luke Roberts is the author of Landscaping Under Duress (Equipage, 2021), Inhalers (Equipage, 2020), Sorbet (Punch Press, 2018) and other sequences. He edited Barry MacSweeney’s Desire Lines: Unselected Poems, 1966-2000 (Shearsman, 2018) and with Sam Ladkin he is co-editing the selected poems of Mark Hyatt. With Amy Tobin he runs Distance No Object. He lives and works in London.
Copyright © 2021 by Luke Roberts, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.