Two Poems – Geraldine Clarkson


my trousered secretary, unnaturally adept
at audio procedures, think hard if you remember
a memo, a meme, or memento treating of freeze-dried
pleasure, reductio reactivated
with the slightest addition of sweat
at the humping of your table beneath the neon at midnight
to strip and polish and buff, each stationery item replaced
in a similar but more fluidly interesting position

I catch the cooling breath of your hours trapped
in blinded rooms, registered in curdled slops
as we smooth away your day as you sleep
rinse your undrunk coffee down the drain
drain your ‘drink me’ milk, grow larger in your space,
dust your children, dogs and husbands, soapstars
softsoaped into convex frames

your discarded heels, scarlet, tell of another life going on
below desk, the elsewhere itch, dancing goad

climbing these flights, nights blending—
climbing into the next life, lives lived in parallel, not touching
except through terse notes about lights and loose
stair-trim morphing into comments about flies and missing corpses—
living the obverse of your days

do your days yawn like we do over your days, in the sideways glance of
wide-angled cherubs on the coping?

an intimation of mortality at the wipe of each probate drawer
the cool-gladed dead filed thriftily on the first floor, the basement solid
with communal will and blooming mould—

the tread of deaths, deals, divorces, on chipped-tile floors
and that day’s conveyancing swirled into banisters
turning with knots and flourishes—

we scour and scuttle, rub and shuffle, fill sugar bowls
with light, take rubbish out back and collide
with crate-bearing barmen from next-door,
smashed glass crizzling in the bins

pasteurised pleasure as we put out our milk bottles
on the front step, startling late drinkers
who stare as if we are christmas emerging
from high ceilings and regency sashes

our hurried humped pleasure
sliding down hot cracks and lifted
to the size of ten grown men

a sheer patina thrown over the conference table for tomorrow

and we imagine senior partners shlocked rosy
and slowwwed in post prandia—

elastic evenings which leave my fingertips
flayed and my brain missing minutes and shaking
itself like a 5-legged dog in the alley, our two hearts mangled
like orphan twins caught in the photocopying machine
spewing ugly sounds and tired grey, their foster mothers
looking wracked and miniscule in their pity

                                                  …scootered pleasure runs roughshod
                                                  the whole length of a georgian crescent
                                                  allowing for the curve and gala cornices,
                                                  a reckless goodbye— we turn sharp
                                                  left to deal with what is left, decide
                                                  what is dayscurf for disposal, what is writ for keeping:

this is about precedents, this is about filaments
this is about circles and swept crevices—
classical modular purgatory


The experts flew in on Monday, white-shirted, corner-perfect.
I saw one engaged in irony just outside the lift, peeling,
with her bare palms, layers thick as plywood from the walls
and floors. A pliant assistant with perpendicular red hair
was noting down stray rhetorical tics from passing staff,
green pen flicking back and forth like a mating grasshopper.
My cousin who works on the ground floor, in ‘Village 66’
(streetside), said that they stayed for a week, white clouds of them
dispersing whenever you opened a door or a cupboard. No one knew
what they ate. Only—after they’d left—the fridges were empty,
some staff had disappeared, and some of those
remaining had lost centimetres of bone
from their spines, and will.

Geraldine Clarkson @GBClarkson lives and works in the UK. She is enjoying catching up on all the poetry, visual art and music she’s been missing over the years, and has had poems published in a wide range of journals, newspapers and anthologies, alongside four chapbooks and a full-length collection, Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh. Her second full-length collection, Dream Island Home for Isabelle Huppert, is forthcoming from Verve Poetry Press, and will include the poem ‘[expunge]’.

Art: London: Streets of Blood and Gold, a visual poem by Robert Frede Kenter (c) 2022. Twitter: @frede_kenter IG: r.f.k.vispocityshuffle

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