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Fran Lock: a poem

On incantation

An off-white hotel bedroom in the pokey heat of summer: here is our old

calamitous melancholy, come to cull my love like a captured flag. I stand

near-naked in the cock-a-doodle moonlight, and pant like a Pekingese dog

for want of you.

This isn't longing. This is bleary need and I want like a dig in the ribs. So

come then, fool, come pebble-brained and walking your old warped kilter,

the coked-up cartoon rain dance of joyride, ceilidh, clubland. Come boy,

whose thirst was a fortress, fool boy I couldn't reach; soft boy who trembled

his hemlock alone. Come sick, in a rank lacquer of sweat, laid out cold on

a camp bed, baste in the pale grease of a pickled trotter. Fucked or clucking.

Come, in any way you please: courting your diffident misery like a grounded

schoolboy, or pumpkin-grinned, as a quenched mess of soppy love, a hot rock

wedged in your frontal manger, rokkering under a hyacinth sky. Come from

the starry revile of a Belfast night, tread a threshed mile with the green reveal

of spring on your breath; come from baleful grace, your scorched corner, raids

and rummages, from forecourts and cafés, the red roofed safe house – safe as

houses – an everyday advent of open doors.

Come, because I cannot sleep. I fix grit-coffee, watch the news: riots, obesities,

the ingrown godless poor who are always with us. Come, because I want a drink

and wonder how we got here. All of us, with our pacts and our remorses; our

tantrums and our art. I keep it together, recalibrate all of my cascade cravings,

doubling down. And I want to tear out my hair at the roots. I see you, jinxed

and drowned and everywhere, lost in your dumb recreational carry-on. I see you

everywhere, you might as well come.

Ten days dead and you are mine alone, don't you know that? Ireland has her

martyrs, generals, gone prophets; has fools enough in giddy, workshy plenitude.

Boy, whose thirst was a hair shirt, who could not cling or scratch at peace, and is

not needed. You belong to me, just me, just come, with olive branches, smoking

roses; pale hands built for trade or menace. Come spitting, and drilled to your

diamond insides. Come. The skimping, sooted, sotted North wants washing too.

She can't clean up come clean without you.

The pokey heat of summer, and all day long I looked for God, but God

was stubbornly curbing his alchemies. There was only the ordinary: all

that sorry shit we muse and strive on. I walked all day. I thought the city

would give you up, but no. The city is chemical torment and blatant

absurdity; the same arrogant scrabble as always. The city is girding her loins

in siege mentality, fracas, spate, and Catholic frenzy. You did not return.

I've prayed, you know, have given out with: oh, you placid canon

saints, what can you tell me of pain? I have prayed, gone over

and over the pallid ablutions of my faith. I have whinnied to you,

flashy and bloodsome boy, to the fucking I loved like an arcade game –

such lights and sighs –. It does no good. You are not summoned

and nothing has changed. I jaywalk my penance of pacing, gesture

at traffic, bawl and scorn.

An off-white hotel bedroom, where I turn the TV on. There are

rumours, as usual, there are starlings and tirades; there is light on

the backs of my hands, public transport, strikes, insomnia. There

is hectoring and skirmish, an implausible poem or two.

Come home, before the trump tornado of my loss has done me in,

has sent me wailing, pin-wheeling. Come, or I will have to agree

with these pills that you are gone, will gild your ghost in empty

rooms no more. This, I will not accept, I cannot say. We were

magicians once. I grind my teeth, and chalk the floor. I’m wearing

red, and green. I will leave the window open, mulo. I will preen

my oily grief like feathers.

Dr Fran Lock is a some-time itinerant dog whisperer, the author of seven poetry collections and of numerous chapbooks, most recently Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019). Fran has recently completed her Ph.D. at Birkbeck College, University of London, titled, "Impossible Telling and the Epistolary Form: Contemporary Poetry, Mourning and Trauma". She is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters.

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