Daniel Bennett – two poems

Oh

I know the moment you were born
or can at least offer one of them
because all of us are ideas
before we ever breathe
and the idea of us is what remains
whenever we slip away.
It happened on the Tube, a place
I would find myself in those days
in that it was no place at all.
When I did read, I slept
and when I didn’t sleep I thought
of ways out of that situation.
(Do you see what I mean about ideas?)
On the opposite seat, I saw a man
and at first I only noticed
the warning signs from my teenage years:
the swallow tattoo on his jugular,
his knuckles pipping out
Morse code rage. A shaved head
and sideburns, Doc Martens
bulging in their leather glossiness,
and I remembered the men
who would scrawl graffiti runes
on park benches and bus stops,
their china blue stares and knives
bound in electrician tape, their promises
of violence which always held
an ambivalent geniality. This man sat
with his smaller version:
a boy in jeans with rolled cuffs,
boots not reaching the carriage floor
and as I watched him cup a hand
to the whorl of a buzz cut
and a voice I had never heard
spoke one little word.


Distance Badge

Swimming. She grows stronger,
more incredible. Head first
into deep water, strokes matched
to the instructor’s demands. Water
is never given a chance to seal,
the lane markings distorted
into chains. When she won her last badge
I returned her home through winter dark
before my journey back to the city,
the gravity always pulling at me
in these moments, the distance.
She asked questions, and countered
with opinions about the world
which have the fluid logic of dreams.
The sky and its curve, the moon
and its high longing for the seas.
And when we talked about the stars,
and how long light takes to reach us
both of us experienced the wonder:
that these far-flung spheres
– arranged into a hunter’s belt
a lions paw, fish shimmering
in a school – are all oblivious
to the patterns we make for them
and are really so far away.


Daniel was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been widely published, most recently in Structo and The Literateur, and he has work forthcoming in Under The Radar. Daniel is also the author of the novel, All the Dogs (Tindal Street, 2008).

Daniel Bennett – three poems

Definite

The rain-flecked windows, bright
as lit magnesium. The hearth
of black stone. The russet pips
dripping from the rare blue-green
of winter pines. The asthma
of a church organ uprooted
into the front room. The workshop
with mice teeming across the walls.
The western novels printed
into large type. The cupboard
of preserves stored for disaster.
The painting of abandoned canoes
on a Hawaiian beach. The record player
uncoiling lengths of cut vinyl
like bands of liquorice. The dream
of rain and God’s light. The nights
spent listening for fox paws
on blue gravel. The tomato vines
growing wild, the spines
on their green fur. The Bible bound
in maroon leather. The tin box
of disused electrical equipment.
The strip of beech wood
soaked in the overflow barrel
and bent into a ring. The smell of tar
and creosote. The wars. And
a moment before she died,
when she placed her hand
into mine, her skin swollen
into a white glove, her eyes
focused on mine and we grasped
all the things we would lose.


Spring Break

What happened? Too many drinks
on the way back from Montmartre,
that old guy hexing us
with his cigar? Place de Clichy,
so much more seedy
than you were expecting?
The whole day weirder, more
actual than we anticipated.
Like our time together became
a trip to deserted stately home
with us stalking the rococo halls,
and all we wanted was a glass of water.
In truth it had all been building
for months, and no photo calls, tourist poses
and candlelight was going to put it off.
No discussion on old masters
to save us in this gallery:
as we consider all the little masterpieces
of disappointment we have collected
since, well, whenever…? That one,
with me in the finery
of a fifteenth century nobleman
abandoning you to usury, the plague
a peacock cracking up plumage
to signify loss. Or this one,
with you in a high collared dress
turning your back to me
and holding out your arms wide
to a new future: the sky
red, orange, violet and pink,
a rage of smoky fury, blazing
all the way down to the vanishing point.


The White House

You take elegance where you can
in this town. An ash tree
rubbed out by winter, a blue fence
like paper soaked through
with India ink. And the white house
beyond, a legacy from the thirties.
It’s there again, this evening:
witnessing our chance encounter,
outside the house we shared.
That familiarity we still have
as we talk of family and the news
which has collected. The odd calm
which drives us now: the way
pain dissipates and leaves behind
what exactly? Minor aches
at the shoulders, the knees.
A lick of white at the hairline
where dye grows out. The heart
closes off, crinkles stiffly
as it tries to unfold. Who
are these people, now? I remember
when we first moved here
and someone from the white house
knocked at our door: a small man
old and plaintive, out to defeat
loneliness with his welcome.
It felt like a relationship
I should expect to endure:
chance encounters at the store,
a friend in emergencies, a sense
of belonging and quiet certainty.
I could easily believe in those things.


Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have appeared in a number of places, most recently in Structo and The Literateur. He’s also the author of the novel All the Dogs (Tindal Street, 2008). You can find him on Twitter @Absenceclub