Jul/Aug 2009 Poetry

Two Poems

by Ray Templeton

Down In Soho

The way back's next to an all-night
internet café. Watch your step, slip

blind streets, rough-sleepers,
bouncers, buyers, sellers: fauna

of the neon economy. You could miss
the door, stairs down from litter and dirt.

In this light, "Wine Bar" in new paint
could be right, but the steps know better—

last year's feet chasing late-night jazz,
five years before, a private club, then,

working backwards: poetry and guitars,
piecework tailors, import-export

(some still smell olive oil and cardamom),
makeshift beds for servants,

blazing kitchen and chill cellar,
cut into the London clay.

And that's only the first two hundred years.
If there were voices to follow,

you'd need a dozen languages, and they'd be
fading in and out, blurred and tattered,

like the words on an old sign, or sounds
that swarm around a fever. But you can touch

the banister, newly stripped to wood—
layers of coloured gloss lifted like skin,

to a revelation of naked knots and stains.
Your decision: go in or take the stairs again?


A New Life

Endless summer—a dry pathway.
Out to the east, the flicker
of red and blue sails, signals
from a friendly landing party.
Fingers touching skin.
That's why we dug and sewed,

making a nest of the house—
building, gathering—a new sign visible
every day. The fruit matured on the vine
over long clammy nights
while the moon waited the harvest
and then autumn—dropping, kicking—

elbowed its way into the place.
So, the sky rolled up
like a luminous blue blind,
to be stored for another year.
Out to the west, hills the colour
of a different kind of intoxication.


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