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PHILIP HAMMIAL

  

            two poems



FUMBLING


Still fumbling for the right key
as the door swings open. Mausoleum
or brothel? The distinction
seems irrelevant. I'm hungry
& the chicken leg I'm offered
is delicious. Haven't eaten for days
but now I'm full, as content as a dog
with a bone. Where to bury it? -
under the pillow of my mother's bed (may
she rest in peace). There
for a rainy day. Coming down in buckets,
a torrential downpour. It could be Havana
& the year 1958. It could be Kathmandu
& the year 1972. The distinction
seems irrelevant. What matters
is that I'm still fumbling with the alarm
as the door closes, deadlocked, & the siren
starts screaming. Is the code
1958? Or 1972? Or is it 1983? - the truck
leaving without me, stuck in this village until
the next convoy arrives in a month or so, my wife
on her way to Juba with two Swahili drivers, Ahmed
& Mohammed. Might as well
make the most of it: a thick novel
to read - Gravity's Rainbow,
& a big mama from Somalia who likes
what I do with my tongue. Brothel
or mausoleum? The distinction
seems irrelevant.

 


OLE HUSSARS


Snow White adrift
in the city of Yore, the who
of her alias a consequence of
unbridled accumulation - the greed
of the Ole Hussars, champions once
of that birth by dint of which we found ourselves
fully justified by a perfect alibi: rocked
to sleep by water lapping on the sides
of an early 19th Century French
prison hulk, how could we have known
who was born of & therefore in
that shame & who not?
               Ole Hussars, men, each
& every one of a piece & surely trustworthy
we assumed as we stepped into their gondolas, were poled
out into the centre of a busy river, our delicate craft
constantly in danger of being swamped by the wake
of passing barges piled high with the dead, victims
of some up-river plague, we surmised, to be taken
out to sea & dumped, no relevance to us, just part
of the passing show, as was our mother, her pleas
for sanctuary falling on deaf ears, ours, slaves now
of the Ole Hussars, who after they have done with us
will set us adrift in the city of Yore.