It is my pleasure to introduce this month’s poet: Ken Evans. Ken and I met some years ago at writing workshops in Manchester. I hope you enjoy these new poems.
Ken longlisted in the National Poetry Competition this year, and in 2015, while doing a Poetry Master’s in Manchester. In 2018, Ken won the Kent & Sussex competition. His poems feature in Magma, 14, Under the Radar, Envoi, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The High Window, Obsessed with Pipework, and The Interpreter’s House.
In 2016, Ken won the Battered Moons Competition and was runner-up in Poets & Players. A first pamphlet, ‘The Opposite of Defeat’ appeared in 2016. Ken’s first collection, ‘True Forensics’ in 2018. He’s thinking he may be close to finishing a second collection…
A tiny hop on one leg when you see me,
a straightening to rise and bob,
then a small correction, mid-
air, as you pivot yourself to steady,
like a dust-devil swaying over
tarmac after days of brown desert.
Your black leather jacket and red blouse,
a grey plait across one shoulder, all
thought through before, but for a moment,
I glimpse the girl in a classroom drawing,
a pink tongue seeming to swing your attentive,
cross-hatching pencil-hand from side
to side: the fleshy dark mirror of your jacket.
Supple and barely touching, we hug and pull back
with comradely smiles, but you catch
my thought as it forms, like a cloud
in a cleaned window, before
looking up, to see the thing itself.
Forever, the Light from Sirius
Sirius, the brightest star in the sky,
whose light takes 9 years to reach Earth
Earth, I left a voicemail, my umpty-eighth.
Must I really draw a picture, me that loves
you, as the flip-side of your silver coin?
I am not who set out, nine years ago. I am
not the me I left behind, and you are not
the you I came to talk to then, but you can
see my same light now, crystalline, falling.
A tendency to see the deceased’s room as empty
is a control mechanism, when it’s no more void than
a December garden at four-twenty, the light
running out of the day’s green bottle faster than
drips down a window, though in fact, calls thread
the blackening sky and hedges: an owl more than
clearing its throat for the nightshift, or the longer
than usual high call of a wren, louder even than
the distant, reverse warning alarm on a lorry
at the steel factory, red lights more piercing than
crows commenting from the chimney pots.
The room itself is bare, a white-out, rather than
featureless. A glass door throws what light there
is on the carpet, naked and pinker where divots
from what was chair legs puncture the fibres,
the hollows suggesting how she faced one way
so many unfurling days, the pile threadbare
where her slippers marked the apex of a star
in front of her, tracks now damped by towels
and steamed with an iron to raise back the flush,
though not all obey. Lines left by a Welsh dresser
still bear her weight, the not-yet-gone of her,
the thoroughfare of a ruined city where
I am an unguided tourist greeted ceremonially
at the eastern gate by a roaring lion with a nose lost
to weathering, running due west in a straight line
to the red sunset, only the weeds in the mortar
noting the location, the sub-divisions of the hours.
The Final Invoice from the Co-Op
A part-found poem
for bringing the deceased into our care in working hours;
for private use of the Chapel of Rest;
for care and preparation of the deceased before the funeral;
for provision of a hearse and three personnel for the service;
for choice of a Simple coffin; a Minister’s and a Doctor’s fee;
for a non-witnessed scattering of the ashes in the Garden
of Remembrance. Note: none of the above subject to VAT.
It’s false then that, ‘nothing can be said to be certain, except
death and taxes,’ Benjamin Franklin or Daniel Defoe,
whoever it was wrote that.
What we remember of our lost may yet be false:
a conservator before
it was a cause or fashion, she dunked
tea bags twice,
marked the coffee on a jar with the stub
of an HB pencil,
and saved her hearing-aid batteries
She’d dance with one hand on her stick, for such a deal –
‘Look, no VAT on dying, a saving of 20% – Bingo!’