Today is World Poetry Day? Good. Here’s Patience Agbabi, utterly nailing the relationship between poet and form, writer and muse, inspiration and punctuation – and being absolute filth about it.
I’m slim as a silver stiletto, lit
by a fat, waxing moon and a seance
of candles dipped in oil of frankincense.
Salt peppers my lips as the door clicks shut.
A pen poised over a blank page, I wait
for madam’s orders, her strict consonants
and the spaces between words, the silence.
She’s given me a safe word, a red light
but I’m breaking the law, on a death with,
ink throbbing my temples, each vertebra
straining for her fingers. She trusses up
words, lines, as a corset disciplines flesh.
Without her, I’m nothing but without me
she’s tense, uptight, rigid as a full stop.
Patience Agbabi, ‘Transformatrix’ (2000)
And here, unworthy to stand in such company, is your host, with fourteen awkward unsprung lines about horology.
Time is not a healer; instead, she makes
us all her co-conspirators, her lost
idols and adulterers, our memories
by turn enshrined, by turnabout betrayed.
She keeps our secrets safer than ourselves,
yet keeps no watch, places no guard upon them;
Protecting them from us, but not the world.
A treachery we’ve earned, if one considers
how we tie her down and measure her,
a rape by minutes, seconds and degrees.
How we stretch her out from point to point,
uncurling curves and cycles, and pretend
her nature knows of anything like ending.
Now, silently, she passes, in revenge.