Above all: Mallory on Everest
How did we get here, starved of air
in a skitter of blown ice,
in the dazzle, in a rare thin sky?
If I could, I’d kneel, I’d want
to touch the wind-cured vellum
of your shoulder, to trace
the tent of your ribs,
the sharp jut of your jaw,
your dry empty eyes.
I’d want to gather up
your scattered threads,
parched wallet, buttons,
and I’d like to tell you
that I can’t forgive you;
not for the way you chose
cold and altitude,
for the way you would love
this death more than children, wife.
When I think of this I cannot think
however I might come down.
Dropped off from the juddering cab of an Albion,
say, or a plasterer’s van, or a salesman’s Vauxhall,
or the frightening souped-up Mini and the pilled-up
driver and his pissed-up mates, out onto the sodium
roundabouts of anywhere, where everywhere
is somewhere in the Midlands, where there is nothing
but fields, and dwindling roads, airbrake hiss, tyre squeal,
diesel, huge uncontainable silences and road hum,
and the blue lights of Services, and truckstops
like the Red Brick Cafe, where they said a fried egg
stayed for weeks on the floor under a red plastic chair,
and no-one swept it up, or maybe it was too fused
to budge, or maybe it stayed no time at all, because
this is where the clocks are stopped at ten past one,
where no-one ever plays the jukebox or the slots,
and the radio behind the counter makes no sense
of local radio phone-ins of the sleepless and obsessed,
where everything smells of tea and ancient bacon,
burned onions and biscuits. Not in transit, even. Stalled.
Twenty four taut strings to tune
to odd diminished minor keys,
he fingers three-hundred-year-old
ghosts of runs and chords, spins
thin and melancholy tunes
to mesh the shades of courtiers
who dream of intrigue, poisonings,
of powdered courtesans, corrupt
fops with mercury- blackened teeth,
the whimperings of Berwick witches,
the smell and reek of their burning;
the wet whisper of a flenser’s blade,
amber oil brimming the huge cask
of a blue- whale’s head; the white
shadows of a hunting owl;
a room of phantoms, minor chords.
John Foggin lives in Ossett, West Yorkshire.
He helps to organise The Puzzle Hall Poets in Sowerby Bridge, and writes a weekly poetry blog: the great fogginzo’s cobweb
John’s poems have won first prizes in The Plough Poetry (2013, 2014), the Camden/Lumen (2014), the McClellan (2015) and Ilkley Literary Festival (2015) Competitions. One poem, Camera Obscura, was Highly Commended in the Forward Prize awards, and appears in The Forward Book of Poetry 2015.
His poems (and reviews) have appeared in Prole, The Interpreter’s House, The North and Under the Radar, among others.
His first two pamphlets, Running Out of Space and Backtracks, were published in early 2014, and a chapbook, Larach, was published by WardWood in December 2014; it was recently reviewed by the Poetry Book Society. All three can be purchased directly from John via his blog: https://johnfoggin.wordpress.com/my-books/
A new pamphlet, Outlaws and Fallen Angels, will be published in December 2015.