After the desert the blue, blue sea.
A sailor breaking up boats with a hammer.
A quiet berth, a tidal creek-
I think of Summer with Monika.
O, Harriet Andersson,
You were so perky, you were zippy
I knew a girl a whole lot like you
This was the Iraqi navy.
The sailor swings at an instrument panel
Take that Saddam- right in the dial.
Some people like to play with these figures-
A game with rules and rolls of the dice.
I don’t. I can’t be doing the math.
I count on my fingers and even then stumble.
Also I’m not so keen on armies-
The giving of orders, the taking of orders-
The figures I buy are solitaries
Wizards, swordsmen, adventurers
And what I like is to put them in place
On a cardboard base with styrofoam features,
Flocked, painted- a miniature world
I can dwell in briefly.
O, so briefly.
Making these things is the real escape.
Once they’re completed they gather dust.
I’ve just constructed a world for nymphs.
They have a hill, a lake, a grove,
Now I’m making a dungeon
And stocking it. I keep adding on rooms
To keep it alive.
So many black rooms
Each with its foulness.
I’m making bids
On monsters, victims, gibbets, racks.
The very last thing I bought was a sphinx.
She’s glancing up. She’ll be asking that question.
I haven’t decided yet if she’ll lie
On the dungeon threshold or hang with the nymphs.
The daffodils are out in the park
The banks of heather are firing up.
And not being able to clear out Blair,
We’re getting tough on the silly old fools-
That’s me and Ailz- who filled up our house
with such cartloads of junk.
The books will be sold.
The Works by Ian Hamilton Finlay
(Some of them signed ) I’m going to give
To the Whitworth.
And when I find myself
(Pah superstitious, pah, sentimental)
Starting to temper my ruthlessness,
I tell myself a story I’ve changed
From a zen original (see next section).
Books do fur up a room. They encourage
The person who owns them to think he’s solid
And not just a thread of capricious fancy-
A butterfly’s track.
The Irish adept,
Olivia Durdin Robertson,
Has written that we project our selves
(Whatever a self is) into each life
As a reader projects herself into a novel,
Getting completely absorbed in it,
Till someone speaks- and breaks the thread
And her eyes slip sideways, out through the margin.
It’s winter. An adventuring cleric
Is making his way through the frozen woods.
The moon is huge, the wolves go “whoo-hoo”
And the zombies lumber.
He carved up two of them
Down by the bridge.
And now he’s arrived
At a ruined chapel.
He helps himself
To some rotted woodwork with figures of saints
And gets a fire going.
He’s cooking a sausage
Over St Barbara, St George and St Paul
When a voice behind him intones “sacriligous.”
And there in the doorway’s a bloke in chain-mail
Enormous- the size of Robbie Coltrane-
And he’s smacking the palm of his hand with a mace.
Our man starts scooping the ashes up
And dumping them in a fold of his cloak.
“And what the fuck are you up to now?”
Asks the guy with the mace.
“If these statues are holy
We’ll sell the ashes as relics.”
They’re nothing but statues.”
Our fella sighs,
“Well there’s a relief. So pull up a pew.
And pass me St Joseph. I’m freezing, aren’t you?