Thursday, December 21, 2006

Poems by Martin Stannard

These poems were accepted by Brando's Hat magazine before my head went haywire and the whole thing ended in ignominy. I've been reading Martin's poems for years and they always make me smile, think, smile some more and wish I'd written them.


Oh, my silly head has been in a bucket
But things are better now. I pulled it out of the bucket
And stuck it in this bag, with some fruit. Fruit
Is good for me, and looking at girls is good
For a moment or two, then it palls. Then it un-palls,
And my head is now in the clouds, and here comes
An aeroplane so I duck, and I am okay for a moment,
But only for that. A moment can take so long.
It would be awful to be hit on the head by an aeroplane,
And it would also be unusual. I like
The idea of the unusual happening, so long
As it doesn’t hurt. Nothing should hurt,
Pain is bad, my forehead is sunburned, I can’t sleep,
What am I thinking about tonight? How pathetic
Everything feels when I feel like this, my love.
Oh, my heart is lost for good this time. I try
And read The Times but I don’t feel like
Reading papers, although I enjoy the crossword,
Word games, and stuff to take your mind off stuff.


Of what one might trade for happiness
I cannot think today. Goodness knows

Where we go from here. All night I sat up,
Tried to puzzle it out, such a long distance

Alone. I was trying to think of one thing
But all I could think of was loads of things

I didn’t want to think of at all and had no idea
Even from whence they came. I daren’t

Think about beauty, it freaks me out.
By beauty I don’t mean horses, or those

Trees in a wood. Sadness follows me down
An alley. Once upon a time things happened

Then I had a dreadful riding accident. Or
Perhaps it was a dreadful writing accident.

It doesn’t make any difference, life turns out
How it’s supposed to turn out, and nobody

Takes any notice, being too busy with
Their own life to bother about yours.


My wardrobe is made out of some off-cuts
From a tree. The clothes are rubbish but the birds
Who live there sound pretty happy. Today
In the charity shop I bumped into
Charity, who I hadn’t seen since the Church Social.
She looked scrumptious, like a vegetable samosa.
In all the world
There are probably only a handful of people
With whom you are destined to spend
The rest of your life. If only I had not been
Wearing this shirt. If only not this hat.
In the woodland, which is more of a thicket,
It’s easy to lose
Much more than yourself. I have never
Seen a woodpecker there. I hear lorries, though,
And chainsaws, and barking of dogs, and iTunes.
I wear out my Wessex shoes, you your military outfit,
Which reminds me I meant never to become involved
With any one else’s thoughts, ever again,
Until I had resolved to resolve all my inner conflicts.
At the moment, though, everything is in abeyance.
It makes me happy, and I don’t care what
You think, or at all.
Charity said she would meet me
Under a clock. It was only when I got home
I realised that “a” clock is different from
“The” clock. Eventually you get so
You can’t be bothered. Some years ago I fell in love
And have only in the last week or so come off
The antibiotics. It’s not worth trying to explain.



There are lots of things I want to keep from the people
I’m playing with. Nurse, bring me my surgery mask, please.
I have nothing against enjoyment, as such.
Bird watching is one way. Bird watching is two ways.
Absorb the news. No, I have no idea who writes it.
All I know is to hide before the big scary man comes
Lurching along all dribbly. Then, after they’ve told us
The TV weather, along comes a full and tiresome evening,
As good a reason as any to procreate recklessly.


All the people who like sex a lot stand on one side of the yard
And all the people who don’t care for it stand on the other side.
A few people are scurrying to and fro from side to side etcetera.
I’m up on a teetering chair trying to see out the window.


It’s awfully quiet for busy. I can remember as a kid
Getting the wrong idea about strip lighting as I sprawled
In the bed and contemplated the ceiling but it was an okay feeling.
There goes a trolley but it has no cakes on it.
In trays we planted the seeds of revolt but they didn’t take root –
It can be frustrating waiting around for trees.
I’m only in favour of freedom
Of information if one makes allowances for secrecy.

© Martin Stannard

Monday, December 04, 2006

Poems by Tinashe Mushekavanhu


We stopped at every station

Bakerloo Piccadilly Hammersmith Jubilee Victoria Waterloo

I had no idea where I was going,

I was following the train where it was going

Once the train halted for 10 minutes

In a dark dark dark tunnel, Is hell so black?

Panic panic panic

I thought we would never get out of this merry go round

We sat in a pause anticipating, anxious, and frightened
10 long minutes

My ears were stuffed with black earphone stubs listening to a Shona song
Pindurai Mambo, Give us Answers Lord

A girl opposite me caught my eye, she did not look away
I smiled. She didn’t.
It was not her pierced navel or pierced lip that disturbed me,
I remember, it was her posture
The girl was big and composed like a piece of sculpture
I wanted to caress it, feel its velvet texture, its stone coolness

someone coughed. The air in the train was thick

And finally a light appeared, I had to drop out
At the next station

Reading Hemingway sitting in Regent’s Park

The sun was up. The time was 12:15.
I had checked out of the International Students House.

It was a boring Sunday.

Fountains splashed on noon-warmed pigeons, someone took a picture,
A squirrel parachuted from a tree.

Myself bored stiff.

I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s Men Without Women
A female jogger passed by; I could see the outline of her G-String

Oh Christ-mas! Mama used to say, ‘Never swear using the Son of God.’

I didn’t sleep well last night; a woman was pursuing me in my dreams,
My vest was soaked in sweat, my boxer shorts mapped with dried semen,

It was the smell of sex!

Midas voice

My first day in London

On an inner city bus, I sat next to a young black woman
Assuming she was English speaking like the rest of the city
I decided to ask for directions in English

“E-eh excuse me
I don’t know
where e-eh
I am e-eh going
but I e-eh…?”

Stupid me, I was in the middle of England but the Shona daemon had followed

“Bhudhi muri kuda kuenda kupi kwacho London yakakura?”

She smiled showing front gold teeth
Long artificial black hair covering part of her face
Things she had obviously picked in London

We ended up sleeping together at her flat

A badge was pinned on her uniform
NETSAYI MASIYAMBIRI, a nurse at Princess Grace Hospital

We came from the same rural village under the same chief back home
in Zimbabwe.

Tinashe is from Zimbabwe, and is currently doing a degree in creative writing at the University of Wales. His poetry was one of the standouts of the Crossing Borders project for me, because of its directness and straight-talking, very much in the tradition of Dembudzo Marechera. There's something of Frank O'Hara in these poems about his first encounter with London: a kind of Zimbabweann version of I-do-this-I-do-that. Also, Ginsberg and the Beats. Its very roughness, the fact that he hasn't made some neat and ordered out of his experiences (as a quietist English poet might) is what attracts me to these poems.