New York City skyline at night

Poetry



Spring 2013

 

 


Robert Minhinnick


1989: At a Dictator's Grave

Someone has left dandelions
in a jamjar. One o clock, two …

Yes, it's later than we think, now lover,
much later than we think.

Because this is what happens
when the old men make us wait.

And it crossed my mind in the cemetery
about the best way to behave:

how should I conduct myself
beside a dictator's grave?

Why not ragwort, lover? Ivy?
Or the corpse-colour of henbane?

But crowding round, the children laugh
as children always must,

I suppose they'll still be laughing, love,
when you and I are dust.

Yes it crossed my mind in the cemetery
about the best way to behave,

but why did I not use bare hands
to dig the dictator's grave?

I dreamed I saw our leader, lover,
as he was driven from the scene,

mottled like marble in the back
of a German limousine.

Yet all our lives we've had to drink
green water from the grave.

Yes it's later than we think, now lover,
much later than we think.

 

from the Arabic of Fatima Naoot

Boy

He strikes a match
and is brave once more.
Now, who cares about the bombings and the war?
As long as fire shields shadows
he will not fear Pharaohs

Girl

The revolution
was a long time ago.
It only makes her yawn.
But when she skips she feels the whole green earth
and is glad that she is born

Decision

When all else fails
a woman still has her fingernails.

 

The Sand Station

The world will be a poorer place tomorrow.
Before he has the chance to open his newspaper
in his favourite seaside café,
immediately after the first sip of coffee,
the Devil will die.

And life will be less
without him. From now on
who will care if I claim
to be better than my jealous friends?
Who will I have to blame
for the toothache that swells my jaw?
The story that Satan lived in the dirt of our fingernails?
It was an old wives' tale.

But think of Christina.
She died too, and nobody came.
Christina died lighting the Christmas tree
in a room where a poem is hung on an ebony frame.
How Cavafy had adored her young girl's gaze.

Because women
die. Cavafy's lovers
died. Into the dark
without protest they go,
those brides in black.

So we sit in the Elite café
considering the coffins that will contain us all,
even the fishermen who haul
whole shoals to the harbour steps
and have dulled themselves to death.

Now it's our duty to devise
a funeral for the deceased Devil.
Think of the mourners we'll meet:
my father, who courted my mother for two lovesick years;
my mother who found a physician
to place a wafer of words in my son's mouth.
Even the shoemaker who scattered hobnails in the street.
And I'll be there too, of course,
silent, serious, receiving the condolences
a widow expects.

 

 

Back to Poetry

Poetry



Spring 2013

 

 


Robert Minhinnick


1989: At a Dictator's Grave

Someone has left dandelions
in a jamjar. One o clock, two … o clock?

Yes, it's later than we think, now lover,
much later than we think.

Because this is what happens
when the old men make us wait.

And it crossed my mind in the cemetery
about the best way to behave:

how should I conduct myself
beside a dictator's grave?

Why not ragwort, lover? Ivy?
Or the corpse-colour of henbane?

But crowding round, the children laugh
as children always must,

I suppose they'll still be laughing, love,
when you and I are dust.

Yes it crossed my mind in the cemetery
about the best way to behave,

but why did I not use bare hands
to dig the dictator's grave?

I dreamed I saw our leader, lover,
as he was driven from the scene,

mottled like marble in the back
of a German limousine.

Yet all our lives we've had to drink
green water from the grave.

Yes it's later than we think, now lover,
much later than we think.

 

from the Arabic of Fatima Naoot

Boy

He strikes a match
and is brave once more.
Now, who cares about the bombings and the war?
As long as fire shields shadows
he will not fear Pharaohs

Girl

The revolution
was a long time ago.
It only makes her yawn.
But when she skips she feels the whole green earth
and is glad that she is born

Decision

When all else fails
a woman still has her fingernails.

 

The Sand Station

The world will be a poorer place tomorrow.
Before he has the chance to open his newspaper
in his favourite seaside café,
immediately after the first sip of coffee,
the Devil will die.

And life will be less
without him. From now on
who will care if I claim
to be better than my jealous friends?
Who will I have to blame
for the toothache that swells my jaw?
The story that Satan lived in the dirt of our fingernails?
It was an old wives' tale.

But think of Christina.
She died too, and nobody came.
Christina died lighting the Christmas tree
in a room where a poem is hung on an ebony frame.
How Cavafy had adored her young girl's gaze.

Because women
die. Cavafy's lovers
died. Into the dark
without protest they go,
those brides in black.

So we sit in the Elite café
considering the coffins that will contain us all,
even the fishermen who haul
whole shoals to the harbour steps
and have dulled themselves to death.

Now it's our duty to devise
a funeral for the deceased Devil.
Think of the mourners we'll meet:
my father, who courted my mother for two lovesick years;
my mother who found a physician
to place a wafer of words in my son's mouth.
Even the shoemaker who scattered hobnails in the street.
And I'll be there too, of course,
silent, serious, receiving the condolences
a widow expects.

 

 

Back to Poetry