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                What You Are

                you are the cat’s paw
                among the silence of midnight goldfish

                you are the waves
                which cover my feet like cold eiderdowns

                you are the teddybear (as good as new)
                found beside a road accident

                you are the lost day
                in the life of a child murderer

                you are the underwatertree
                around which fish swirl like leaves

                you are the green
                whose depths I cannot fathom

                you are the clean sword
                that slaughtered the first innocent

                you are the blind mirror
                before the curtains are drawn back

                you are the drop of dew on a petal
                before the clouds weep blood

                you are the sweetfresh grass that goes sour
                and rots beneath children’s feet

                you are the rubber glove
                dreading the surgeon’s brutal hand

                you are the wind caught on barbed wire
                and crying out against war

                you are the moth
                entangled in a crown of thorns

                you are the apple for teacher
                left in a damp cloakroom

                you are the smallpox injection
                glowing on the torchsinger’s arm like a swastika

                you are the litmus leaves
                quivering on the suntan trees

                you are the ivy
                which muffles my walls

                you are the first footprints in the sand
                on bankholiday morning

                you are the suitcase full of limbs
                waiting in a leftluggage office
                to be collected like an orphan

                you are a derelict canal
                where the tincans whistle no tunes

                you are the bleakness of winter before the cuckoo
                catching its feathers on a thornbush
                heralding spring

                you are the stillness of Van Gogh
                before he painted the yellow vortex of his last sun

                you are the still grandeur of the Lusitania
                before she tripped over the torpedo
                and laid a world war of american dead
                at the foot of the blarneystone

                you are the distance
                between Hiroshima and Calvary
                measured in mother’s kisses

                you are the distance
                between the accident and the telephone box
                measured in heartbeats

                you are the distance
                between power and politicians
                measured in half-masts

                you are the distance
                between advertising and neuroses
                measured in phallic symbols

                you are the distance
                between you and me
                measured in tears

                you are the moment
                before the noose clenched its fist
                and the innocent man cried: treason

                you are the moment
                before the warbooks in the public library
                turned into frogs and croaked khaki obscenities

                you are the moment
                before the buildings turned into flesh
                and windows closed their eyes

                you are the moment
                before the railwaystations burst into tears
                and the bookstalls picked their noses

                you are the moment
                before the buspeople turned into teeth
                and chewed the inspector
                for no other reason than he was doing his duty

                you are the moment
                before the flowers turned into plastic and melted
                in the heat of the burning cities

                you are the moment
                before the blindman puts on his dark glasses

                you are the moment
                before the subconscious begged to be left in peace

                you are the moment
                before the world was made flesh

                you are the moment
                before the clouds became locomotives
                and hurtled headlong into the sun

                you are the moment
                before the spotlight moving across the darkened stage
                like a crab finds the singer

                you are the moment
                before the seed nestles in the womb

                you are the moment
                before the clocks had nervous breakdowns
                and refused to keep pace with man’s madness

                you are the moment
                before the cattle were herded together like men

                you are the moment
                before God forgot His lines

                you are the moment of pride
                before the fiftieth bead

                you are the moment
                before the poem passed peacefully away at dawn
                like a monarch


from The Mersey Sound, 1967
when I first read this poem in 1978 I was too young to let go associations enough to get the metaphor; after a lifetime of being obligated to associations which stood idly by while I wildly floundered without ground, I can let them go with glee and relish and relish the metaphors to the portrait’s content (… still not sure about the ‘lost day of the child murderer’, however, and I’m still not sure why I’m not sure, but I’m not; but I can’t think McGough just slipped up over one couplet … (and I can’t find any discussion of this line in the pages-that-proliferate-like-spores-wafted-across-their-own-private-amphitheatres))




books & love wormhole: `whappn’d!
buildings wormhole: cowled
city & windows wormhole: moon- // washed
clouds & green & silence & time & wind wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – old George
curtains wormhole: ‘the Bat-Signal …’
dawn wormhole: between
death wormhole: beguiled / desire
eyes wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – With Cows
feet wormhole: ‘oh my girls and muse …’
glasses wormhole: … the underleaves show
hands & water & world wormhole: A Solitude by Denise Levertov
leaves wormhole: sufficiently away
library wormhole: two profiles
mirror wormhole: DANSE RUSSE by William Carlos Williams
morning wormhole: TO A SOLITARY DISCIPLE by William Carlos Williams
mother wormhole: granny
power wormhole: I
Spring & sun wormhole: SPRING STRAINS by William Carlos Williams
trees & voices & yellow wormhole: TREES by William Carlos Williams
walls wormhole: both modern and en-slaved / to life
war wormhole: to arms, then;
waves wormhole: Khandro Tsering Chodron
winter wormhole: where did the silence go