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Dirty Washing: New & Selected Poems (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1989)

Drafts of "Parting"
Home-Computer Terminal
Poems in memoriam for J.T.M. (1906-1987)
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There are always thin rails slick with rain
slipping out of some small, dismal town
where houses stand discreetly back as if
it would be slightly voyeuristic
to look directly out onto the track.
The platform holds its ghosts in retrospect.
What else can lovers fold so closely
in their arms except each other's absence?
A parting is of no real moment.
Doors slam shut on something out of focus –
one blurred face, a mist of memories.
The guard plays God, he times a last embrace
precisely, by a stop-watch, arm raised
ready, like a guillotine, to drop
and disinvent the characters. He knows just
how long it can reasonably last
before the eyes shift, clockwise.
The whistle brings a strange, sharp relief.
Hands knot and cling until they're torn apart.
Afterwards there's time to keep on thinking back
to this and that and how it should have felt.
So many partings glance away ahead of us
to where the rain slants on an empty track.

Dirty Washing
7 Rinses plus Final Spin

[. . .]

8 Home-Computer Terminal

I need a day to catch up with the bleeps
and floppy disks that put the moon to sleep
before she's even started incrementing yet – 

an access time to learn again to count
on daisies and the microcycling earth;
the nine new moons that add up to an output

(from snow to harvest or from apple-picking
to the buttercups). Often I forget to watch
the flowchart go to seed in blackberries.

The seasons whirr and blur in fruit-machines
and memory-retrieval systems. Daisy-wheels
have gone into the word-processors.

Apples, Acorns, Apricots - whole orchards of computers –
shed kernels, cores and pips, like litterbugs.
The myths are programed to repeat themselves.

Two born-again believers interrupt my interrupt line.
The Lord has clocked us. After execution time
Peter and Daddy shall be left to fish in peace again.

I scan the picture of His Kingdom Come for signs of women.
There are none. (Unless the wisps of smoke from Alpine
chimneys mean that Mummy's cooking there, with Jane?)

Pressing buttons, counting on my fingers, I have grown dyslexic.
The terminal deletes my garbled simplex and repeats:
Rose, thou art sick; a fatal error bugs thy memory banks.

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Sylvia Kantaris
Last updated: 20 February, 2015