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Kenny Knight - Three Poems


                  For Matthew Carbery


When I glance at the big screen

in room three hundred and twenty

I can see you talking to people

sitting in four rooms in four universities

two in Wales

and two in other parts of England.

Your book lays on the table between us

set in the last century

tracking the long poem

in American Literature

with or without roots in Whitman.


In room three hundred and twenty

there's a map of the world

hanging on the wall behind your chair

the sea is a lighter blue

than the cover of your book

night is not here yet

there's a map I can't see

wrapped around the world and shifting.


If I could travel around the world

I would travel across it

in a weather balloon

if only travelling were as simple as that

the thought of departure and arrival.

If only it were as easy

as getting out of a chair

and walking across the room to Mongolia

to see the snow leopards

or deconstructing molecules

a short step or less

than half a dozen footsteps

quicker than nipping

over to the supermarket

shopping for tea bags and soya milk.


In room three hundred and twenty

I look across the blue

of the pond to America

and think about writing

a poem that long

three thousand miles of soggy paper

a poem that begins in Honicknowle

and ends on Olson's doorstep in Massachusetts.

When I write I take things from everywhere

like a magpie and twist them

and when you slip psychedelics into the mix

in the form of magic mushrooms

I wonder how many

past and current trippers

there are seated around these five tables.

Two that I know of for sure

sitting next to each other

like Albert Hoffman and Aldous Huxley.


Reading Paul Celan


            For Christina Peters


The surrealist diner

at the other end of the terrace

pours Christmas pudding

over her Christmas lunch.

Birds fly under the roof of the cafe

a foghorn practices the shipping forecast

a child leaps out of the bushes of memory

seashells pinned to his ears.

For entertainment we listen

to the theme tune from Harry Potter

look out to sea

as the sun shines a yellow eye

over the distant shoreline

of Friday afternoon.


We have expensive taste in poetry

we dunk teabags into teapots

reading to each other and the hecklers

of the sky in German and English.

Lottie lays at your feet

a black and white rug under the table

doesn't interrupt the conversation

doesn't bark or tut

in German or English

when a fight breaks out

at the other end of the terrace

in the middle of reading Paul Celan.


The sky let's go of its grief

a soft rain falls

on Lottie's black and white coat

falls on handbags and teddy bears

as the passengers

of a pram parked nearby

skip the formalities of bell ringing

launch into each other with gusto

knocking seven bells of featherweights

out of Harry Carpenter's punch bag

kicking salt and pepper pots

kicking sugar cubes across the floor

juggling spoons in the air

that fall through the air

words that shoot out of bodies

ricochet off tables and chairs

a little bit of off-screen drama

a brief interlude on Friday afternoon

somewhere between Tinside Pool

and a tin of Winalot in Christina's kitchen.


The day ages by the minute

by midnight it'll be

the mother of tomorrow

the clocks will go into labour

the prams will have moved off

with their wheels and bruises

the gift of peace

and quiet will return

and we'll turn the page

read some more Paul Celan

take brown and blue photographs

of autumn leave falling

from the lighthouses of the sky

onto the dark landscape

and desecrated heart of the city.


After a couple of rounds

the sugar cubists depart

leaving us alone with Paul Celan

and the surrealist diner

finishing her Christmas starter

and dessert in a photo finish

that no-one takes.


In another time and place

under the family tree

of a distant autumn

in a heart held together

by sugar cubes and loss

I imagine myself

out on the streets of a city,

a city much like this

which is a gateway

to somewhere else

a city which Louis Aragon

and Maurice Chevalier passed through

some years after Houdini

escaped the river's grip

a city which gave the world

A Curious Shipwreck

the Speedwell and the Beagle

seadog of evolution and Devils Point

overlooking the sea, overlooking yesterday.


Sixty feet above the shoreline

to the east of Darwin's great landmark

we practice the art of multi-tasking

translating surrealism into English

drinking tea and coffee

under the shadow of Smeaton's Tower

under the pedals of a big wheel

from some giant bicycle we'll never ride.

Skirting the cold corpse of Christmas lunch

Lottie passes through the lunchtime crowd

like a ghost through butter

the sea moves towards us as if we were

the adopted children of King Canute

engaged in a futile rebellion of deckchairs

outclassed by the moon and the tide

cast as castaways in a parallel

Paul Celan movie someone else is making

making sandcastles out of nothing

out of narrative, out of language.


Letter to a Longhaired Girl


I had a pen friend

when I was at school

she was German,

it wasn't Christina,

it was Brunhilde

we met on the pages

of a teenage magazine

started writing to each other

in Nineteen Sixty Six

the year England won the World Cup

nine hundred years after losing it at Hastings.


I don't remember the name

of the city where Brunhilde lived

it could have been Dusseldorf,

Cologne or Munich.

A daughter of the Cold War

she could have lived

on a street close to the Wall

looking out of a Berlin window

looking out over the city

sometimes in the morning

sometimes in the evening

watching crows flying east

watching ravens flying west.


She could have been born in Baden Baden

so good they named it after New York.

There might have been

a photograph of herself

she sent in one of those letters

a black and white snapshot

taken outside a museum

in Brunswick or Ravenstein

a photograph smaller than a postcard

like one you'd use for flying out of a country.


I don't remember much

of what we wrote

we were young teenagers

so I must have mentioned

my newspaper round

must have told her

how I travelled to America

to play electric guitar

with The Honicknowle Blues Band

at the Fillmore West in San Francisco.


I don't know if she was tall

if she was blonde of brunette

all I know or remember

is that she spoke two languages

her handwriting was blue

she was left handed

to match her politics

she liked German Literature

and the American rock band, Steppenwolf.


The last time I wrote to Brunhilde

I told her I was smoking marijuana.

It must have been Nineteen Sixty-Nine.

It must have been rock and roll.

She wrote back

her words filled with concern.

I thought she'd be alright with that

somehow in my innocence.


We were fourteen or fifteen

when we started writing to each other

seventeen or eighteen when we stopped.


I think of her sometimes

while travelling through Europe

or drinking coffee

with Christina on Frankfort Gate.

She was my one and only pen friend

a stranger out of childhood

a native of Hanover

or the Black Forest

sticking stamps on envelopes

in the land of Wagner.


If she wrote to me now

would she talk

about her grandchildren

her home in Monchengladbach

her holidays on the Rhine.

Would I tell her about

my life in the blue

my life out on the road

reading poetry all over the city.

My life waiting tables

looking for red and blue numbers

in a supermarket cafe

my nine to five existence

or last weekend on the moon.

And if we met by chance

say in a coffee shop in Heidelberg

would she remember

the name of that teenage magazine

or those letters she wrote

to a longhaired boy.

Would she look into the past

see herself scribbling

talking softly in two languages

talking to crows flying north

to ravens flying south

talking doorstep to doorstep

talking marijuana and Kurt Schwitters

talking pen to pen across Europe

to a longhaired girl living quietly

since Nineteen Sixty-Nine

on a suburban street

somewhere in Bavaria.


Copyright © Kenny Knight, 2022


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