No-One Knew His Last Name by Natalia Spencer

i.m. Sam Lowe

The first time I saw you by the bins I was a visitor
That stance was like a young girl luring quick silver
from a mine with her beauty even though
your dog squat on the lawn as we talked.

Based on the soft baritone answering
bird soprano
I moved in hoping for peace
an end to bedsores & grief

The second time was through Georgian wired glass
you came in a Santa hat
late at night in party mode my door stayed closed
I knew my worth was more than this

The third time you offered greased sausage in a bag
your face a drooling cider pool would-be-kiss
The fourth time I gave you shade under a black garden umbrella
sunlight made your skin crawl

The last we met in a lane
one well-travelled by both of us
your jaw steroid plump held up
the Pierrot black-skull cap

This morning sparrows remain voiceless
& these words do not know what shape
they want to be, a song, an elegy
or a sticking plaster to span space

At the risk of joy you left the clutch
of perpetual snowdrops under a lamppost
Small white warriors outside your flat
Next year I’ll bring them to your feet

For the Love of Lee by Natalia Spencer

lee:
Noun

the sheltered side of something; the side away from the wind.

Oh yes the fish wife said I often saw him
Fingers engraved with filth
& he smelt like a kipper
Bleeding disgrace I say

No don’t think I did he said am just too busy
to see what’s at my feet & judging
by that ratty bit of card
I don’t think she could write or read

Yes he/she was often camped there
said two policewomen & we knew its name
We saw sweat sparkling on the forehead
Hardly remarkable in seventy degree heat

No said Tony Stranger I never saw a report
that a disabled life died in a shop doorway
but I do know Theresa May
asked if they even existed

Yes said the whole internet
worms are dozing on leather green benches
or outside Gregs those sausage roll bags
are just fair weather mates

Yes said the Old & the New Year
As seasons change from sunshades
to blinding Christmas Neon Light
November’s Penny for the Guy is always here

And when commuters begin to rat run
for another buck somehow
that duvet that dirty cloud evaporates
like urine sodden snow.

Scavenger by Natalia Spencer

Sun cracks sky above roof tops
& Japanese Maple is a blood orange clot

There was a time someone might have loved me
a man who stepped on sand happy

if you watch slow fall of gold leaves
this country can be really beautiful

providing you have the view
a man can look past gnarled roots

erupting through concrete
like wrinkled eels

They plague hours of air, grime
& gold humps limbless like me

And I do not ask pity from a boy who shouts
Get back to Africa

I try to speak as a Marine should
Sand fills my mouth

The Patient Has An Undiagnosed Placenta Praevia by Natalia Spencer

I have revived an old man who pressed the bell & was looking
through frosted glass of Death’s hallway
& I walked home smaller past a stone ingress
of a pauper’s graveyard

It’s not much to look at ground unkempt
nettles for bees, a choking lilac set
on a jumbled mound of dog rose
wrapping bodies who had no name

On the next round I see a woman swollen like a rose hip
she has come far although there’s nothing
to pin point why her child is born blue no breath no chance
as we slice & stitch more grief in

And I sleepwalk home her cool limp shape follows
she wears my stethoscope a red ribbon for a Welsh man
who swore labour should not end
in a small box & black footprints

..

Author’s note:

Adam Kay spent six years training and another six years on ward rotation. The above poem reflects a typical day. As he says his patient should have had an elective caesarean. He resigned from his post as Junior Doctor in 2010.

Cold Afternoon in Birstall by Natalia Spencer

I.M      Jo Cox

small & perfectly formed in Britain

 

In understanding misogyny’s mechanism

or any nouns which ends with ism

you took your elegance to a library

 

in the same way your vision of a world

‘without violence towards women & girls’

feels like a scarf against a damp climate

 

We saw you in temples & mosques wearing it

like a warm red smile

wrapped around your head

 

you the daughter of a man who squeezed

toothpaste into tubes

Now there’s a British thoroughbred

 

And after the screaming subsides

and that huge heart became a full stop

an underscore for your life

 

a slim finger of sunlight reached

from sky to earth as if our Gaja

was leading home her own gracious beauty

If only I […] could pass as clear as water through a plume of grass by Natalia Spencer

—Alice Oswald The Self-Playing Instrument Of Water
..
Often he rose at five cracked ice to wash
gulped tea black as night’s last swatches
..
on the rare times he brought blade to chin
hands calloused from plough mill or forge
..
the prisms…. leapt out of puddled rain took him
no further than a Welsh shoreline
..
Often he sliced skin…. his blood….. a penance
for lack of craft on hand me down strop
 ..
Now ……..like eye of dead sun…….. the crucible hangs
useless on its axis
..
much the same as plastic razors storm blown
across polythene patchwork oceans
..
coral bleached……… crawling up
long sampan hulls…….. & tourist boats

Pro Amore—22.03.16 by Natalia Spencer

For the Dixons & so many Families worldwide

 

On the lip of the world two women slide

from beds        begin to make final prayer      & fail

while turkey crowns

are draped with bacon the news comes

turns all hope to dust              & we

 

near & far of sun-flecked Adhans

we will uphold their love      whole & clear

like violets on moss

aware the journey between Metro

& home      is far removed      to Islam

What Is More Lowly Than The Grass: by Natalia Spencer

ah, underneath, a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat

A.R. Ammons. Poet

 

Not within the context of what Ammons said

Death steps out across hexagonal cells

snatches them all in its Midas glove

 

Poor fool the wheat grows tall          this too

turns brown    inside stuffed shirts

Who comes     Who lays wreaths       at your stones

after blooms fail to bud & the last fruit

suspends air      like sarcophagi

 

Still you probe & squeeze

confident        liquor of ancient monks

will run soft as camel footsteps

 

& with each one that falls

the displaced are gathered      in buckets

which of course          amplifies protest

 

&  noise mutters so loud

the barbed stings puncture small globes

this involuntary war you provoked

 

Poor fool your yellow rape thrusts tall

over a crust of dry burnt moss

while lavender      buddleia     purple clover

mourn summer’s fierce & tribal winds

One More Day 29/02/16 by Natalia Spencer

They arrived scared. Now they are scared of us’ Good Chance Calais

The caravan made of blue Sanskrit & blankets

which was love to us

burns black

 

You watch children weep

gas & bulldozers claw

a food shop

 

in the space emptied of friendship

& prayer

 

you say it’s to prevent typhoid          promise

to house us in cargo containers

fourteen beds to one pod

 

my brother’s name was Tariq

he who pounds at the door

 

I look to the pony tail lady

she gave out water & shoes

Sorry I cannot stop this

 

Her focus is on a smoking black bag

The tins           tall ones          short ones

have no labels

no distinguishable marks

 

Were they useful

or just flea plagued rubbish

 

What choice    is there

but to go as life jackets

red, yellow, orange     hang

fixed to Greek sky

discarded like butterfly wings

 

 

Not at This Address by Natalia Spencer

The first one came. Not in the way

you would expect.

Just one boy, a bit spotty and nervous.

My hair was wet.

I put it down to the turban on my head.

 ..

Coffee or Tea, I asked. I mean,

I had to do something.

 ..

The second one was his certificate.

We are very proud, his father said.

I do not believe him.

Probate is a bastard’s name.

 ..

Still they come, promotions

for: Pile cream, spectacles, Life Saving plans

Work Place Pension Schemes, and guns.

Guns—Two for one. Is it legal?

 ..

Oops, sorry. Perhaps I should write,

The white envelopes plop

through the mail box, like steel daisies

exploded on a carpet of green.

 ..

 ..

Perhaps that, is more palatable

for a government to read, as I watch

his brother takes that black marker,

strike a line through, his name.

Hello How Are You by Natalia Spencer

Black eyed potatoes yearn on the draining board

the peeler hides in the kitchen drawer.

And the washing line snapped under her weight

of disbelief. Today she sits outside a café

in an army town waiting, it seems, for someone

to dust a milk white heart

on her coffee.

 ..

She is a common sight here, hair swept up and airy

like the pre-made meringue in her net bag.

Somehow, she tells me, she’s lost ability to blend

sugar and albumen. And plump raspberries

for his Eton Mess are unavailable, as is

that first number in her directory

saved to speed dial.

Lament for Paris by Natalia Spencer

On nights like this there was love,

a softness like fireflies in the darkness.

 ..

On nights like these there were Artists

and Poets creating wonder along The Seine.

 ..

On nights like these, the air exudes the sweet perfume

of café au lait in softly lit bistros.

 ..

And Paris was a proud mother, of cultured sons

and daughters like yours and mine.

 ..

Oh proud man look at the husks you leave in the red mist,

the tattered piles of misery, spat from a gun.

 ..

Oh proud man, watch love burn in The Jungle

watch as Paris looks for waterlily skies again.

 ..

Oh proud man, see your angels descending

to wrap red clay around your body.

..

And I recall an Author who wrote that only the dead

arrive home and take their mother’s coffee.

 ..

*The last line is taken from The Road. Peter Riley.

The Glacial Stairway. Carcanet 2011

Take it like a man by Natalia Spencer

How many men will actually feel

a rectal tear

and ignore

a perpetual bloody river

 ..

How many will take their own son

to Accident and Emergency

and ask for sutures

which will never stop oozing.

 ..

How many of them

does it take to change a lightbulb

into shards?

Just one, I’ve heard.

 ..

and how many, will it take for them to be

on their knees

crying

Lord, pluck out my eye.

Filth by Natalia Spencer

The Lawnmower arrived to preside at Angle Island’s fiscal review.

The conference room door opened and a white haired woman pushed a trolley full of pots of Columbian coffee across the room.

‘Your brioche will be served in ten minutes’ she hoarsely announced before shuffling away.

‘Somebody please open a window, that woman’s smell is unbearable,’ a cabinet member said.

The Lawnmower waited for the coffee scramble to subside and, clasping a thick file in his pudgy hands, said

‘First on the agenda is the elderly and infirm.’

‘I see you intend to axe the heating allowance, bus passes, and raise the retirement age to eighty.’ said a junior minister.

‘Yes,’ replied the Lawnmower ‘thus enabling a saving of over twenty-one billion per year.’

‘That sounds impressive, but the problem here,’ responded the junior minister ‘is there aren’t enough jobs for the elderly as it is.’

‘That is also the case with most of the population. Cuts must be made regardless of demographics.’

‘Granted,’ said the young minister ‘but if you take away the bus passes it will impact on the senior population’s health. Think about it, lack of exercise, increased isolation and higher incidences of depression.’

The old woman returned with a snack trolley, laden with fresh fruit, pastries and a tureen of kedgeree and left.

‘As I was about to say’ the Lawnmower answered ‘I am well aware of the implications but the cost of anti-depressants is much less overall than the ever increasing financial outlay for luxury items.’

‘Heating is a luxury? Winter temperatures for the past five years have averaged

-15°C. And the mortality rate has increased year on year amongst the old.’

‘What do you suggest I do, make funds available for solar panels? What is wrong with extra cardigans, pullovers and similar apparel? And if they die, due to their lack of provision for their old-age or own ignorance, one less elderly or sick person equates to savings across all sectors.’

Someone coughed and then asked ‘Excuse me Sir. But what is this sub section headed: Employment of unsustainable life curtailment strategy. Surely not?’

The Lawnmower fixed his gazed on his Minister for Work and Pensions.

‘Where do you think the retextured protein, available to those on the lowest of incomes, is derived from? Like I said—an appropriate prescription for anti-depressants is far more conducive to cost effectiveness than supporting eighty-year-olds from the same socio economic bracket for a decade or so.’

Nobody spoke.

The only sound heard through the open window was birdsong.

And then the mewling of a new-born.

The Canteen Lady Opened by Natalia Spencer

The Canteen Lady Opened

the hatch and asked if I wanted gravy

to the side of the mashed potatoes

But I thought she said

open your legs wide, the punters want a photograph

 ..

Then she said, would you rather we shove your head

down the latrine while a furious dog

licks his cum from your ass

or have seven men pound your face until you choke

 ..

It transpires she’d said

I know you hate peas, have some broccoli instead?

 ..

And then I thought she said

that child inside you, a little more coke

and a coat hanger will make sure you’re fit to work again

after the blood and pus abates

 ..

It transpires she actually said

the water jugs are on the tables, it’s okay to help yourself.

 ..

After Mark Waldron, The Brand New Dark

Daughter of an Immigrant by Natalia Spencer

The old Iman yells in his address

Europe is decrepit

that it needs human reinforcement

that Germany has opened the doors

because migrants equate

to a new source of labour.

And I recall

six and a half million children

of Israel, gone like smoke through dark towers.

..    

Breed with the godless, he yells

trample them underfoot,

Allah willing…

And I think of a Spanish Moor crept off a boat

in an Irish Port into the arms

of a compassionate woman.

If he was gone by morning, this…

I will never know. But there was talk

his only refuge was a tree.

 ..

Behind a spiralling worm

born from thorns and wire

a child of the 60s lives

in a city paved with black blood.

Men have used her bones

to fill their pockets and satisfy lust

But they won’t hang

a woman with brown eyes,

Allah willing…

her skin is white.

.. 

Or deny her benefits

Allah willing…

me, the didikai

on a mobility scooter,

long hair slip-streaming in air

like dark fingers pointed at you, and you, and you.

Dead Spider behind the Lens by Natalia Spencer

Hung like a cobweb across the macula
the corpse is a specimen of note
for a young ophthalmologist.
And eye to eye his breath freezes her face
her eyes are dry, there is water in his
as he looks at a retina formed by a man
who thought he had complete autonomy.

Often she forgets the timid arachnid’s presence,
tinted glasses make a good stage-prop
as sight disintegrates further with age.
Yet for thirty years friend and nemesis
has left her dumb—unable to trust,
and taught her to love herself, to detect
warning signs and when to walk away.

Occasionally it lays eggs, which float
like poppies unfurling in vitreous humour,
until the body digests an emergence of the past,
the head spinning brilliance proffered on a fist,
eight legs birthed on a second-hand carpet
and dangled from an umbilical cord,
crimson and black like the colour of toxic love.