Two Poems | penny boxall
—From Ship of the Line, Eyewear Press, 2014
We drive past the sign at first,
swerve, spin back.
with skin, the crown of some
wrecked animal topping it all.
They sell scented candles
and the recent dead –
a baby bear sits on a stool
as if for a lesson,
his giant paw missing nothing
but a crayon.
There’s a pornographic hush
towards the back, the pelts
strung in moneyed lines,
shining like polished wood.
Leopards maul the walls.
And a fawn / not fawn,
hauled from its mother,
is frozen in a pose it never struck,
its eyes filmy.
Outside is the Wild
which we only know about
because we know too of outposts
filled with fur. And look:
here is a chipmunk
paddling a canoe, his little fist
just like yours.
August, and the air is thick with salt.
We walk the sticky avenues,
take comfort in the momentary shade.
Above the twisted-sinew roots cement
bulges. Crickets tune their strings.
The grid of streets means turning right again
will bring us back to the beginning—it’s here
that four are grouped round something
on the grass. A skunk, perhaps, or else
exotic moth—the teenagers
are absorbed. A squirrel? It lies
fat as a pear, legs spoked as though
through gorging. The girl glances;
embarrassment clears her throat.
“I feel bad for it,” she says,
“with a broken back.” Of course:
her friend dangles the despatching mallet.
Seconds tick. They’re waiting for our exit
at the corner, past the shielding trees.
All the way, I listen for a sound.
The Winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award for 2016 is penny boxall