Siegfried Baber – two poems

Christmas In Saigon

It takes almost eight hours to burn
a million dollars, and
in the courtyard a gang of Marines
hacks down a tamarind tree
to the sound of Bing Crosby crooning
over the embassy PA.
The stylus crackles like a jungle
in flames. A child waiting
by the checkpoint
wraps and unwraps her hands
in the hem of her dress, and smiles
at her mother, smiling back,
as the blades of a Huey
dice the air in a blizzard of ash
and smoke and rain.
On crowded rooftops, sons
and fathers lift ladders to a dirty sky,
waving, calling, or singing
along to sleigh bells and strings.
There’s a man swimming
through the grim steel
of the South China Sea,
now a lake in Nebraska frozen solid,
fringed with frost,
and he’s wearing all the clothes
he owns, despite
the temperature rising
above a hundred and five degrees.

The After Life

You blame the weather or the government,
I lament the decline of popular music,
and we know this must be the place.
The sun is rising, but never quite makes it.
It’s been that way since we arrived here
all those weeks or months ago.
We stay up late and drink coffee
with sour milk. This room is whitewashed
in the current fashion, like a skull stripped of skin,
and when you return with a fresh pot
we wave to the couple across the street.
They could be us (don’t you think?)
huddled together in that blank apartment
waiting for the day to break.
It’s the same everywhere in this grubby town,
men and women looking out
from half-opened windows, untangling hair
and yawning, clutching expensive cafetières.
Or hunched over the kitchen sink
scrubbing spoons, quietly weeping,
where the sediment from a thousand cups
forms an endless dark watermark.

Siegfried Baber was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1989. Since graduating from Bath Spa University with a degree in Creative Writing, he lives and works in the city as a freelance writer, and as a barman in Bath’s finest pub, The Star Inn.

Siegfried’s poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid is published by Telltale Press, with its title poem nominated for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Follow Siegfried on Twitter: @SiegfriedBaber