Lights Out in the Stroke Ward
The ward’s silence is a canvas stretched to hours.
The wireless plays the sweepstakes of tossing and turning,
a rumpus, a whorehouse of little explosions,
muscles stiff through a brisk day spent ambulating
with an NHS crutch and a collapse.
We all walk a bewitching tightrope
of pain and bottled relief, prisoners of our bodies.
Some are stripped down to their shadow,
machines breathe for them, fed through a tube,
stiff in their animation. We souls who clambered
into life boats mark each others spaces
with piled newspapers left open at the crossword puzzle,
tea cups that visitors have left with lip stick smears around the brim,
furrowed packs of jelly babies and black liquorice
spilled like the guts of a great ship
on the sea of our overhead tables.
The night nurses shine pocket torches about the ward,
unmindful of our eyes, a rapid sweep to check
that none of us have shuffled off into the night.
Cartilage clouts the too short beds, bones crack on taut white sheets
of the gestalt ward, other than the sum of our collected breaths,
spending the change of mortality, gold in the river.
I hear the treetops scrape the roof, like children whispering.
A broadcast churns the room, the old man’s fart recorded
as a gnostic gospel.
Mystery of the New York Skyline
and funfair ginger burning like a mule, hiked across the red milk / and fete geysers frothing off like a latte, ridden like a bull / and the cries of a night of failure / and stink hatred and love hatred / and stove pipe gardens of seagulls / and brick chimney stacks / and madness and madness and madness, the laughter of the balloon inflated and pricked / and the fallen tickled and racked and bloated like the dead of the Thames / and a racket like foxes squabbling over the dead rats in the garden, a seagull garden / and dread garden hanging from trees with limbs rewound, regret the rebrand / and copyright notices and board / and desalination in action, begging the extreme / and begin the beguine, a dance numbed and exotic, a Pacific cruise / and the Titanic Atlantic dragging to be let off the sink, the drain frame / and tonic water / and a explosion of dying, dying hips and dying ends / and dying kissed lips / and dying New York / and dying in state / and eyeing the skyline, to be cautious is to deny life / and song and sex and love / and the big game, versus action verse / and the dying minutes of overlap and vision par excellence / and Italy’s dying minutes / and par electrizat, come one, come all you heaving mass / and burden.
the mystery of it is where you are, where have you gone, / and what have you got? I see you but you’re nowhere fast / and far reaching sound blasts / and defending silence.
run boy run, the mystery of giants, the psychic of a gnat’s wing / and plotting the candle snuffed out.
This poem appears in Grant’s latest collection, Loneliness is the Machine that Drives this World (Platypus Press, 2016).
Leaving the House on Grub Street
The possibility of a troop of grotesques
breathing on me on the old goat bus
into town is unsettling. Do they appraise me
through my paper-thin disguise?
I’m sure that my headphones are screwed in
as the rasping doors open, eyes fixed
to the chewing gum spit on the pavement
as the unrested traffic of hawkers, swindlers,
makeshift leafleters peddling their paths
to God billow around my sickly white feet,
guarded by the sole hounds of Derby, cold
as stone. I hear strolling minstrels rhyme
their temporary poems, disposable
as beauty, needless as a description of sunset,
splendour of ended day. I barter for a poem of dusk
and this exits with me as the day coughs its last.
Grant Tarbard is the author of Yellow Wolf (WK Press, 2014), As I Was Pulled Under the Earth (Lapwing, 2016) and the newly released Loneliness is the Machine that Drives this World (Platypus Press, 2016).
He tweets @GrantTarbard