1. DESERT, DESERT,
‘…the so-and-sos ran off with all our teen-queens
after a fight in Dudley, sixty-two, sixty-three.’
Don’t talk to me about your mojo and the British blues boom.
It’s all just physical graffiti. Yes it’s surrender, can be scolding
but if gracious, with stillness and calm, gets you the rhine-
stones and the white fox furs. That’s universal. But you, you
wanted a spike of experience. The energy centre. Inflammable
power. To be intense and on. The Santa Ana winds. The growth
of the flower of love. To be blinded by all the brass. Desert, desert,
garden. You’ve lived the jazz you grieved for, having dodged
whatever - a twist of birds in the street trees - to do so but go on then
do, do live your afternoons through a blurry video of green fields
filmed on flickery High-8, the date-reel ticking at the bottom
of the screen, air shots of abbeys and yellow glades in whose winds
you imagine yourself to fly pre-industrially, mantel piece stone
of Keats House still firm in its Pennine mountain, the ticking
round of a pushbike wheel, its spokes brought tight by sound
the Italian way, you are free to assume. All you wished
and whistled for played out, done in down a straight street,
the camera swooping now over a town, watching the wheels.
We don’t write our surrenders on some wall in the middle
of the night and seek their acknowledgment through binoculars
in the morning from some sun-lit emergency exit. I often ask
people about you ‘…eventually he was just whistling,
but he was whistling just great.’
During our walk to the pizza place
at corners in the path, at browning grass,
you stop and bring your camera up.
I walk on at pace once the pinch hill
is behind us. The sun is low so for the sun
bleed you seek you must wait until tomorrow
when you will absolutely coax its light
through the cracks in the camera’s jade
plastic body and directly onto the film.
Tonight you turn a long shutter to yawn tears,
tears of joy, the wedding violin which sound
tracks the translated vows, lifted veil
and steps timed to shorten at the cliff porch.
Not baby steps these but thundering buffalo strides
away from childhood towards children
and accelerated forgiveness. Our vows, written
blushing on our walk, they’d take as a vault –
These are the doors to one heart – a Trenitalia tunnel
through the sharp mountains, a fine desert charger
to get us to its lit mouth. Before dancing you talk
about tomorrow hoping to photograph a clear sky
and a glittering sea. Between Proud Mary & Brown Sugar
you hop and grin, feigning your table tennis serve,
and spin a little hard-to-break ball of fun my way.
Olly Todd is originally from West Cumbria and now lives in London after stints in Liverpool and LA. His poems have appeared in the Clinic anthologies, Rialto, Vice, Belleville Park Pages, Five Dials and Test Centre.