A Stag Leaps in Clapham Library


The forensic lighting systems are Swedish

They’ve won smart design awards for Lambeth

Almost everywhere, except Lambeth


Here the poetry shelves show a different dust

Yellow and waxy, pollen of all the poor poets

Who defied aerodynamics for honey


I’m about to browse Adventure or Crime

Before meeting the family therapist

When a familiar spine bends towards me


Laminated like an endangered species

This Stag’s Leap has never leapt the steep ravine

Into the hands of a Clapham taxpayer


The date has been smudged on the inside cover

A purple kiss the day after Valentine’s

And not a single moistening finger since


Nor guilty speck of biscuit, splash of merlot

Hasty pornographic in bleeding biro –

Not one of life’s insistent underlinings


Yet here I hold a forgiveness of verse

As vast and tearful as the Earth, melting

With the subtle climate change of couples


Balming, not blaming, anchored never angered

Words that judge nothing but the crush of shingle

And the emptiness of remembered pockets


Later, I ask the shrink if he reads poems

He withdraws the phallic symbol from his mouth

And reminds me we only have an hour


Commended in the Philip Larkin Poetry Prize 2014


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