David Harsent


The Duffel Bag

God’ s blood beads on the tarmac and something rough is boiling up
just this side of the vanishing point, so it’ s probably time to get

off this stretch of blacktop and into the wayside bar, where every cup
runneth over and you breast a thickening fret

of stogie smoke to get to the dank back room where a high stakes game
turns against you despite your trey of jacks, and soon enough

you’ re in way over your head with nothing and no one to blame
but the luck you’ ve been getting since first you threw your stuff

Three Poems after Yannis Ritsos


There are graves under the houses and houses
under the graves and linking the three

a broad stone staircase where the dead
go up and the living go down. They pass one another

wordlessly which might mean they don’ t know, or else
they’ re pretending not to know. You can smell

the orange grove on the hill; you can hear
children bowling barrel hoops down the street.

Two women gossip as they fill their jug at the spring.
Their secrets cloud the water.

Tinnitus: January, thin rain becoming ice

Now footsteps on shingle. Make of it what you will. Seabirds roost
on the breakwaters, accustomed, of course, to twilight.
The spirit lamp in that house on the headland could easily fall and spill
and the fire burn all night. Some time later a subtle ghost,
yourself  in memory perhaps, might well set foot
up there amid clinker and smoke, the whole place silent and still
except you bring in the tic of cooling timbers, and then the birds in flight.

Now chains through gravel. Make of it what you will.