No. 4 & 5


Fiona Sampson  

Poland: Small Graphic

Without our noticing
summer started to bloom between the clouds,
pollen stained the walls of buildings
above the tram stop.
The day was blowsy,
tipping its petals from the window
onto my desk.
When a pair of climbing swifts
seeded the sky
and it began to thunder
we got scared,
we took shelter under small tents
made of paper and poems.
Our nipples were roses.

The Business of Naming

I have two lovers.  Both are in the beginning, the east.

One is dark fur under trees
on summer evenings.
Heís a flake of tobacco lit up and burnt away,
the barrel belly of a pregnant mare.

One is light under water;
vodka nipping the tongue;
sudden applause of pigeon wings.

Neither lets me say his name
although my mouth strains
against the bit of their will
to open a dark vowel, a light vowel.

I have two lovers who love me 
as the destination of a road
along which I must deliver them their 

 Both afraid
they will be born again -
as a sect nurturing its soul in darkness -
when they enter my body

at the conclusion, the west. 

Setting the Echo

In the concreteness of need, the space that keeps us away from ourselves is always to be conquered.  One must cross it and take hold of an object Ė that is, one must work with oneís hands. 
- Levinas, Time and the Other

Set the wild echoes flying.
- Tennyson, The Princess

And here 
is my metaphysics of presence:
that I am, I am 
in the mirror 
in the miracle cabinet
   of the lift,
blur of sleeve
lift of a bag strap,

mechanism whispering its routine
behind or beside me
into grooves and the lips of pulleys.

I undo my coat.

Above and below 
all the rooms on all the corridors 
         are opening.
Put on my staff badge.

Light flickering the sample tray
on the nursesí station.
Opening, windows flutter 
      deflected sun.
What are we opening to?

Cross your palm with disinfectant.
Life pressing against the skin,
fragile, brutish:

where could it escape to?


Here I am 
       leaving a fingerprint on window glass
between here and here
connecting and disconnecting

the world 
   and the world of illness
the look outward and inward,

of glances exchanged and dropped,

which hunt for the human,
for what secures us. 
         The other
who sets up an echo in the self.

I called him but he gave no answer. 

Rooms open beyond rooms.
Their throats are flowers.


In the secret chambers of the ward
of the warded self
I am painís and pain is mine,

he feedeth among the lilies
arranged in chipped glass on top of a locker.

But I wonít obey, 
      each one of us vows,
I wonít answer the bodyís imperative.

Sun creeps across the window
and, in the fields, clods 
turn naked flanks to it
stunned, bruised.

In every bed a self prays
let it not be given to Me
to understand suffering.

Life incarnated, form after form.

Is it your prayer
thatís on my skin like sweat?
I called him but he gave no answer.

Forms open -

ĎMobile phones must be switched offí
and all day I imagine youíll ring
though you never have.
I called him but he gave no answer.

A hundred keys
     to the human body
in a hundred drawers;
Iíll open all of them
till I find you.

The root of self
   out of body to body.


I step in and out the private room of the lift
as if to confide in a body I know.

Doors opening.

The sly music 
of the periodic table
enters your mouth.


All of us naked
under the disguise of coats dressing gowns surgical scrubs

the liftís giant balance tips us
     Going up 
into incurable humanity.

Press your thumb in the cushion
of my palm.
That blanching.
At every touch
the whole carnival springing to life
blood shooting through capillaries, urgent 
pulses struggling 
to diagnose your touch.

Level nine.

Hidden, your body becomes a refusal.

I should like to touch it
into pain,


painís nerve-lament,
voiceless music.


The self bobs at the bodyís rim.

I am a harpe unstrung,

nerves tighten fierce webs
which arenít weed, web or warp
but willow, 
       I will weepe 
under their branchesí folding fronds 

illustrated in severalle very fine and anatomickall plates

where you could unstitch each nerve
from its fleshy bed its fruitful
conjunction with plump muscle.
A kind of frayed thread, a straitened music.

But o the planets:

among racing stars
       hair standing on end, 
when a comet like a syringe pierces my heart,

my nape on which your breath
like rays,

so the light-ray we ride backwards
from the clock on the cathedral tower in Berne
holds us 
in the instant of change
which is relation

between your thighs and stomach
like fever

       - Bless you!
But Iím here 
in this unexpected form.


In the lift a man
so covered with warts 
itís obvious something terribleís happening 
stands humbly
  in blue-striped pyjamas

as if these stripes (chosen
in some careful past) 
   were a defence

against the body.

And God made man in his own image
though we (conducting our selfes as is fittinge)
manage not to stand 
exactly next to him. 

Floor by floor and key by key the lift
tunes the hospital,

not every change
an upward modulation:

you walk out in a new skin
        shining all over

or (on the bed-scaffold)
am I?

end among scraps of hallucination;

on this side 
of the fast, deep river
still asking the mortal questions 
are you?

And hereís what I learnt:
that Iím not whole 
        bounded and secure;

you can crush my bones,
pull apart the ropes of muscle.
World entering 
   my porous membranes 

like rain 
through the knitted sleeve of my bed-jacket:

invisible and actual.

Iím not whole, 
 itís my body
which makes me incomplete.


From the deep pit of bed
I sought him whom my soul loveth
and lo they came with
plastic water jugs, syringes, anti-nausea medication

and I was not comforted To whom I said,
Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?
and they came with prick-tests for blood-sugar,
sleeping pills, bed-sore dressings

but I want the miraculous 
the dry hand
awkward and knowing 
     in my hand,
what else 
trumps the necessary suffering of this body

alone with the cubicle curtain rocking 
in and out? 
       Lulla Ė 

The watchmen that go about the city found me
to whom I said, 
Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?

and they said
tick-tock, tick-tock,
time for tea

smoke trickling along paper rims 
of the Russian carpentersí fags
                Lulla lullay Ė 
this is the smell of you

bodies bent into a blue wind

of your

which I want to touch
with all the artifices of compassion

in which I want to touch our common

And still I donít
touch you:



here even dreamís 
an intravenous device,
behind my eyelids

your bodyís 
remote radiance
a promise Iím sick with nostalgia for

though nurse says, Itís the drugs, dear -

rules of light above a curtain
the fear-squeal of pipes
an old lady grieving
in the bed nearest the window -

  into separating streams of sleep.



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everything published 
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with the author's.


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