13 February, 2012Issue 18.3Creative WritingOriginal Poetry

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Three Poems

Stephanie Yorke


At Carfax.

Three toggles on a five-toggle jacket;
white-knuckled book stack, elastic band at the wrist.

Just focus, they told her. You’re on a roll.
They meant a roll like a fluted bicycle wheel,

not this scatter-snap in a string of beads.
A yellow finch clutches

the clock hand at Carfax. Brass mechanics
bore a hole in the haze.

That homeless girl who lives on Cornmarket
draws antennae dots on butterflies, spring lines for frogs,

gets her living with sidewalk chalks
in this city where it always rains.

 

A Walk Back from Port Meadow

I.

Hardscrabble, born to grab, the shorebirds
meddled at dusk. Terns wavered,

flung into the bog grass, and inkblot
ducklings ransacked the mire. The estuary

teamed with life, teamed even
with what dies: Ma’am, we’ll have this

unloaded in a jiff, protein pieced in half
a day. The night warning blinked. I turned

my collar and took the viaduct back
over the train station, dusty fox

trotting neatly on a rail. I passed
into Jericho’s once-row houses, with Tarnished

mailslots and doorknockers and doorjambs, finger-seaming
wear patterns on the knobs. A fashion for holding

once-miner’s picks, turning coal barrows
to end tables. Red brick boot stops

pressured clean. Like a beloved son’s rugby shirt –
you can’t purge the sweat

without the hard-won mud stains.
So memorial chases memory.

II

At the power pole on Longworth where all the wires
converge, I met an ocelot. A child’s

weight, a GI’s muscle, eyes’ verdigris coins. Somebody’s imported
baby to glut on a Saturday, catfish

thrash in the bathtub, chicken delivered live.
A weeknight sly to nab the garden

duck, drag it live half a block. Till I stomped
twice, and the duck made a break – smack of dry

webbed feet on the pavement, clipped wings
a hospital dress: all the wrong parts

bare. Cat constant as an IV trolley
following through the undercarriage of parked cars.

The duck’s stuck-pill larynx roiled, neck
bristled at full height. Paltry chest

come short of its desire. The lump lump
of the ambulance with soft tires;

the fugitive in his mother’s shirt.
Begonias. But he runs. Can’t be told (a slap

of oily meat) he’s our spare thing,
nearer decoy. Just more than a lump of cork.

III.

Hard done, not born yesterday,
the sweeper painted her eyes dark

over bonafide tired. Cornmarket
Street’s evening shift

dribbles home after the mapspreaders.
A tabloid push hustles

his three-legged dog through a J-walk.
She watches the bus halt,

blow a kiss. Leave it clean
as stabbed trash, combed tracks.

 

Pastimes and Amusements

To The University of Oxford

1. Hopscotch

Win? Yeah, sometimes.

Click of the stone
filched from the driveway, jive of the shoe
undersole pink, oversole white,
loose lace a rat’s whisker.
Unwieldy chalk, gamut of squares
pretty like a peacock’s fan:
how does he not fall over?

Make the march of the military clown.
One one two, two two one,
General Harlequin Booms
WE’LL PASS THIS SWAMP THE SILLY WAY SOLIDER
I’m Veit Anylark, I’m Guerrilla Goofball

or a chimp raising my coin hat.
Crank organ, cymbal.
Ends. No stickler for means.

2. Monopoly

Win? No.

kingdom in this world.
Inflatable castle: my last 500
on a bluff of 10’s.

Remortgaged cocktail dress.
Tips at the Randolph
via phase one trial.

Twist my arm till I cry
Uncle Moneybags;
I’m solvent till the goons

knock. Tap of the landlord’s
little brass hat.

Or his other piece –
a gold hand crushing a silver jet.

3. Rock, Paper, Scissors

Win? One in three.

Thug, bootlick, backstab.
Brick, brownnose, tripwire.
Case-by-case

basis, or operating mode:
one always
slams the door,

another keeps her lips moist.
Napkin smooth lap,
hands under the table,

she says pleased to meet you,
draw.

Stephanie Yorke is reading for a DPhil in English Literature at Wolfson College, Oxford. Her first collection of poetry will be published by Signature Editions this April.