I'd thought you'd get through any disagreement just by talking
by persisting quietly. Fool. Steel-rimmed the hole at the centre
through which all hopes of contact plummet down in flames
as modes of talk criss-cross from opposite directions like jets in flight
which rightly never slow or swerve to read the fleecy trails of others
then something searing wipes its arc across my sight again
as rape fields of acrylic flowers do stripe your eyeballs yellow
and unreflecting green takes charge at the horizon threatening to rain -
shove off or I soak you sunshine - suppose you stopped describing
something, would stopping free you from it, almost as if it hadn't happened?
So is that shiver down the back of the neck water, or is it memory calling water
or is it squaring up to getting properly shredded, which does cut clean away
from iron edges soaking into rust, from blurring fiery wells of tin-work -
someone calling tell them I'm not home, hurt me so bad to see my baby get
away, ashen-mouthed, smoking regret - instead of all that tactile surface junk
there is this sobbing flash, you-die immediacy: who longs for decent
and consensual talk, it is that calm and democratic front I'd work to be:
I was not born to that.

from Denise Riley: Selected Poems (Reality Street Editions, 2000), copyright © Denise Riley 2000, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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1Laibach Lyrik:Slovenia, 1991

2Letters from Palmer

3Lure, 1963

4A Misremembered Lyric


6Poem beginning with a line from Proverbs


8Marriage song with a remembered line

9Cruelty without Beauty

10So is it?

11Dark Looks


13disintegrate me

14The Castalian Spring


16Problems of Horror

17Goethe on his holidays