New Tactics for Old Wars
Out from the station
armed by glass and reflection
at the same pace as political eruptions
(but not to scale)
over power lines of language
one two, they come
together, open legs through light and naked trees.
Open, close, open again.
I notice houses in much the same way
that an army might, translate again
E-W-S into the compass, not 1707
plotted along lines like these, signed in
black loops like dropped
against daily, to these approaching, opening skies.
with danger –
several walkie-talkies, one
for each language, cuffs, other
measures that can be made rectangular.
Maybe even books.
Walk into this world of choice,
where you can have a ‘gait assessment’ for ten pounds,
so that you do not incline any more,
either to the right, or
to the left – you can buy this for politics –
and you do not overpronate, or underpronate
(meaning lean into yourself
too far, or bend too far out).
Only so many
middle grounds you can occupy
Distinctly not a photograph, then. Not
the rosehips falling
in ways, or the configuration
of fallen fence planks; not
the platinum face of early
morning through the late gaps,
grinning its way into memory, and
the circling shutter,
but working up slow by slowly, to imperfection,
like words and hardworked sentences
do. Not simulacra. Not ‘as it was’.
in the gap,
a blank among planks, a plant
in platinum, waiting to be decayed like gardens.
The tartan at cross-purpose but good purpose to the paving
is the moon tracking the scaffolding – no, its tracking of the moon,
and a ruler to measure steps home;
unintended consequence of building,
like the way words fall out
as new tactics for old wars,
the bitter ones we chew at
and fight with ourselves, wanking and spurning
anything else, wrestling the old known enemy
to be occasionally
surprised by a left hook when you were expecting a right,
the right taken
away, and loving that
surprise, wanting, no, needing, no, it.
(We) forgot to give each other
pronouns. It was like that then;
[‘yesterday’, too, is a weapon; detention
of the ‘moment’, which, too, is a weapon. You
are hit so often].
(We) spoke in tongues, disentangled
tautology to lie, equal and opposite, in parallel lines,
passing each current through (our) arms,
modelled on each other
yet distinct. Two models. And pretended
(we) weren’t thinking about other things.
Tomorrow, lying sharpened on the floor.
Politics. Particles. Which (we)
were, of course. Doing.
Those, and phrasal verbs. Doing those.
Transatlantic fibre-optic cables
were subsumed by compounds, running
like the many little suppositions
(we) had about each other;
Change makes (us)
give up conceits. What appears to be sand
at low tide is the lamp-spill
from the embankment’s edge, predicting
new densities, saying not marking
where sand, too, will fall, and rise.
And this, you know, has nothing to do with our,
we buried cables. Nor, dear, with us.
Gloria Dawson is 23 and lives in Oxford. She won the Ledbury Poetry Prize 2001, Foyle Young Poet of the Year 2004, and was shortlisted for a Gregory Award in 2005. Upcoming appearances include supporting Jackie Kay at the Soho Theatre in June. Having suffered a degree in English literature, she is trying to escape the box, discovering instead that the box has a lot of corners and a lot of common ground.