Poem introduction

'A poem should not mean but be,' said Archie MacLeish. I’m glad he said that. I am often looking for a kind of emotional colour rather than a meaning. The first line came drifting by me early one morning and I caught hold of it. The rest followed. The ghost for a long time was Goering sitting but once I had thought of Garbo knitting, she just would not go away.

Reading the Bones

The tiny bones of children in a cupboard,

The ghost of Garbo knitting in the chair

Beside your bed, the rocking of the eggshells,

Descending dust that glitters on the air,

The severing of connections in your brain with

The teeth that crumble and the gums that bleed,

The broken promises, the stopping train with

The sailing times you know you’ll never need,

 

The dreams you can’t remember when you wake up,

The days you can’t remember when you drink,

The drink before the rows before the break up,

The pills you should have emptied down the sink,

The severing of connections in your brain with

The teeth that crumble and the gums that bleed,

The scrubbing brush you can’t remove the stain with,

The nightdress tangled in the waterweed.

 

The sly insinuation of the razor,

The buzzing of the beetle in the wall,

The hidden laws that govern random numbers,

The fear before the pride before the fall,

The severing of connections in your brain with

The teeth that crumble and the gums that bleed,

The fingernails recovered from the drain with

The seven smuggled kilograms of speed,

 

The purring of the tiger in the attic,

The chattering of the scorpion in the box,

The roaring of the madman in the tunnel,

The intermittent ticking of the clocks,

The severing of connections in your brain with

The teeth that crumble and the gums that bleed,

The killer disappearing through the rain with

The cipher message nobody can read,

 

The tiny bones of children in your sandwich,

The boring of the beetle in your head,

The everlasting crunching of the numbers,

The endless conversations with the dead.


from Being the Bad Guy (Peterloo, 2007), © John Whitworth 2007, used by permission of the author

Where next?

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.

Recordings

John Whitworth

John Whitworth Downloads

1Jenny Jefferey: A Topographical Love Song

£0.89

2Lindsay Paterson

£0.89

3I Wish You A Wave of the Sea

£0.89

4Joffy and Me

£0.89

5Getting to Go

£0.89

6The Tower

No preview avaialable.£0.89

7Down Oz

£0.89

8Love & Sex & Boys in Showers

£0.89

9The Room and Mr Twelvetrees

£0.89

10Minstrel Boys

£0.89

11The Disappearance of Jack Moon

£0.89

12Outplacements

£0.89

13Like Love

£0.89

14You and the Books

£0.89

15His Dreams

£0.89

16Respected Sir

£0.89

17Reading the Bones

£0.89

18The Examiners

£0.89

19Life at Eighty

£0.89

20On the Deaths of Philosophers

£0.89

21The Peak and the River

£0.89

22Dog Days

£0.89

23Little

£0.89

24Black Dogs

£0.89

25Tobacco and Boies

£0.89

26The Sacrament of the Water

£0.89

27Nil Carborundum

£0.89

28Love You Madly

£0.89

Books by John Whitworth