Roddy Lumsden


Against Complaint

Though the amaryllis sags and spills
so do those my wishes serve, all along the town.
And yes, the new moon, kinked there in night's patch,
tugs me so — but I can't reach to right the slant.
And though our cat pads past without a tail, some
with slinking tails peer one-eyed at the dawn, some
with eyes are clawless, some with sparking claws
contain no voice with which to sing
of foxes gassing in the lane.
Round-shouldered pals

Hard Work

Tricky work sometimes not to smell yourself,
ferment being constant — constant as carnival sweat
(a non-stock phrase I palmed from a girl from Canada,
a land where I once saw this graffiti: life is great).

And I have tasted myself, especially when I spilled
sinigang all down my arm in a Pinoy workers' caff
in Little Manila. I drank sinigang (is soup drunk?)
in Big Manila too, with all its dead skyscrapers.

Hazy Alley Incident

Girl shouting Oliver! at the top of the cut-through
by Jacob’ s Gallery, you have now entered
the slenderest of histories, the skin-bound book
I store between my temples; in that mean
and moonless city, you must hang fraught
in your too-long coat, not a winner, but placed,
and in this cutty version of forever, forever
calling on your unseen beau, one flake in
a limbic blizzard, one spark in the synaptic blaze.
And now the rain turns, light but going steady
on the Willamette. Along the bank, I lift my pace


An inch from the curse and pearled
by the evening heat I shake
my polo neck and a cool draught
buffs my chest. What rises is
my animal aroma the scent
of blue-ribbon stockthe sort
a starred chef would ladle from
a zinc-bottomed pan to soften
and savor the hock he has sawn
and roasted for the diners out front

Ornithogalum Dubium

Lame again, I limp home along Lawn Terrace
with a flowering sun star in a paper wrap

then back to the village with a lame cat
twisting and woeful in her cage.

Bread these days isn't baked to last:
how sad those posh loaves thudding off

in pine breadbins all around the Heath:
soulless latterday pets, frisky for a day

or two, then binned or thrown to foxes,
loaves just an inch of gloom below

the caged birds you notice in corners
of those same mansions when you seek

Season of Quite

With refreshments and some modesty and home-drawn maps,
the ladies of the parish are marshaling the plans in hand,
devising the occasions, in softest pencil: the Day of Hearsay,
Leeway Week, the Maybe Pageant, a hustings on the word
nearby. Half-promised rain roosts in some clouds a mile out,
gradual weather making gradual notes on the green, the well,
the monument, the mayor's yard where dogs purr on elastic.

The Shuffle

Skipping out from the major international cocktail party
with my becleavaged blight, a jeroboam in her tight fist,
I broke open my copy of Sarcasm for Beginners, i. e., men.

Never had I seen so many pairs of to-the-elbow gloves.
Never did I see a puttoed ceiling groan so with thin talk
as the great, the grim and the gone pressed terrible flesh,

so many penguins offering tastesome wisps and skimps
from doilied salvers: cherry-shaded caviar, cheese puffs,
dark sugared berries, dainty octopods, gently vinegared,