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Faber & Faber, 1995
a snip at £6.99
Café Bar, St Vincent Street
What I want to be is magical,
a moment in the life
of the black-skirted barmaid
she'll always remember
wistfully. I'll keep my distance,
comment briefly on the subject of change,
don't ask her name, say nothing of art.
Amuse her by all means, but let there be magic
miraculously illuminating the forgettable,
creating something out of nothing, as I were a god
in disguise, an angel, something innocent,
not quivering, not trembling, self-assured
as a god must surely be. I'll sting
that private bud of readiness
with a fruity wit, surprising gentleness,
almost anything to be remembered
as a lick of grace, a lemon taste.
Inevitably I will drink up my coffee
and my Black Label and I will leave the bar.
Unheralded, that will be the way of it.
First the bar, and then the street, unheralded,
unbugled, naked of panoply.
Full of the Cold
He sits on the horsehair-stuffed sofa
and suffers: Erkältung. Seine Frau
muss ein Papiertaschentuch holen
aber es gibt nur Toilettenpapier. Sie bringt
zuviel. He uses a couple of pieces to blow
his nose then starts folding what remains
along its length. He folds it and folds it,
neatly, carefully. He's producing
a steadily thicker wad. Finally
he doesn't so much fold as roll it
into a soft cylinder. His wife looks on;
My husband the tampon-makder, she says.
Praise be to God, who pities wankers
and has mercy on miserable bastards.
Praise be to God, who pours out his blessing
on reactionary warheads and racists.
For he knows what he is doing;
the healthy have no need of a doctor,
the sinless have no need of forgiveness.
But, you say, They do not deserve it.
That is the point; that is the point.
When you try to wade across the estuary at low tide
but misjudge the distance, the currents, the soft ground
and are caught by the flood in deep schtuck,
then perhaps you will realise that God is to be praised
for delivering dickheads
from troubles they have made for themselves.
Praise be to God, who forgives sinners.
Let him who is without sin throw the first headline.
Let him who is without sin build the gallows,
prepare the noose, say farewell
to the convict with a kiss.