So there is talk of him returning,
a voice wrung from dawn’s dishtowel.
Talk of him returning – which is itself a return,
clawing at shattered blinds and men
in shirtsleeves with knuckles of coal in their eyes
remapping their pockets
with some memory of a misplaced pipe.
I do not deny I look forward to it,
maybe a horse-drawn cart that stops and steams
and the curtains eased apart
with all our garden gates.
In preparation we must tug ourselves away from crowds
like ragged bodies from water, our lungs sparked with salt
and breakable as glass.
I look beneath café tables for his rolling head.
All day long a dog has circled outside, tied to a metre;
should I put my arm inside his mouth
and introduce a chain of arguments?
Already there is talk and more than talk,
conch-calls among skyscrapers
as televisions cease to function
and there is only this cold static in our ears,
the noise of caterpillars slowly swelling.
Nerves on edge. Bone and nerves resetting.
We have met the signs in our dreams –
the climbing-frames overclimbed by ivies,
our palms rubbed raw
to resemble blood-dusted moons.
And we have died a hundred times or more
between the beartrap mouths of pets.
Look they have little human faces.
We have seen the signs, picked our disguises –
ratcloak, flowerface, armours of wood –
mistaken the pickled egg
for a reckless human foetus
softly gleaming in the larder light.
Pity our infinite returns to childhood
you who are returning with us.
Actaeon into the fold, an umbral spear,
his head is so heavy, his empathy compulsory,
calves like ripe mangoes,
thighs strapped in bindweed.
Beckons from alleyways wielding a syrinx pipe.
It is difficult to forget that laughter:
a pool of bells, ever-clinking glasses
and this tinnitus.
Everywhere helicopters are crashing:
Chinook in a gyre one poet suggests.
Actaeon posing naked or skinless,
pointing to himself with a stick in anatomy lessons,
dissertating on the humours.
His antlers are optional, as are the wounds.
He runs through the woods disrupting foxhunts.
I was there when the streets wore through to dirt,
when Actaeon sat under the moon’s spotlight and sang –
trying to remember his shape again.
Here is a fanfare for resurrections.
Actaeon, you tousle-brained monster,
what is it you sing?
But the human ear is poorly suited.
James Midgley was born in Windsor in 1986 and now alternates between Henley and Norwich. A few months ago he completed his undergraduate degree at the UEA, where he will be studying for an MA in creative writing from the end of 2008.
His work has recently appeared in publications such as Agenda, Magma, The Pedestal, The Rialto, Stand, Under the Radar, and The Warwick Review. This year he received an Eric Gregory Award. He edits the poetry journal Mimesis.