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3 Arguments (with paper birds)

Hugh Foley

Commend my body to the songbird.
            let me speak in language strangely
adapted for these purposes,
            like the slang of old men reminiscing
about their conquests.

Circumstances change—if this cannot
            be factored in then action is a word
I probably won’t hear
            again. The lingering sense
that you’ve been cheated

haunts these proceedings, but in
            the window there are slowly
loading images of justice and peace
            and fucking cats. The heaviness
of everything will drop away,

the eyes of the world will turn, slyly
            implicating someone less
guilty than themselves. In real life they
            pay me more than anyone deserves
to turn the tune to you.

What comes of making the face
            into a legible object is not quite
adequate. The fathomless and
            cold sincerity, the terrifying
grace, burlesques the weather,

makes the rhythm seem too fevered,
            makes the day wrong, makes
an erotic prop of the umbrella;
            if the whole hill actually stood still
then maybe we’d be getting somewhere.

As it is, we carpet-bomb the bin
            with complaints that wrongly come
to resemble their targets, phosphorous,
            napalm and depleted uranium,
less often than we ought if truly serious.

My wants are piercing and burning. My
            duties are the same and so
I step into them all more wildly
            than I had done before,
having seemed tame.

Several questions remain unasked
            but why do anything at all?
Why shoo away the blithe bird
            who would sit on the windowsill,
being beautiful

next to coffee mugs full of mould
            and ash from other people?
If I am compromised in
            my internment or my wish to keep
one person apart,

so be it. It’s a long, slow walk
            to the newsagent anyway
and if I were to hold my arms open
            there, they wouldn’t appreciate the gesture.
These all started as charms

to comfort for what they traduce
            to place things complicatedly
together. And perhaps complicity could be
            to be jointly folded up and made
to fly like paper.


Hugh Foley is reading for a DPhil in English at Exeter College, Oxford.