#SaltScan Which poem do you prefer? James Brookes vs Kirsten Irving
Take part in our new poetry survey — read the poems and cast your vote below.
Surveying the Queen’s Pictures
by James Brookes
In this country one could quite despair
of wonders. There are only these
genial, shy, apostolic spires
unseen or not-quite-seen.
Psalm 146, as prayed by Strafford:
treachery is atavistic
and the landscape it forms is thorough.
This is a short lyric,
the gaunt face of Sir Anthony Blunt
explaining to Elizabeth.
Whatever is left of divine right
there is no aftermath.
Herr Speer’s romantic Ruinenwert
put in practice at Coventry.
The multi-storey — perish the thought —
that is Tintern Abbey.
Lissom and brittle the saplings rise
on the steep-banked dual-carriageway.
This is happy misery. My gaze
discomfited by rain.
by Kirsten Irving
Your body, that two-handled clay jug,
is dislocated; either it shivers with the ghost
of the potter’s wheel, or it voids all food
and leaves you a grey-blue tenant
in a saddle of bedsores. At night,
you become a hive: the shudders,
the pistons in your femurs,
thrust your legs like foils at me
and your nurse, and the cousin I know
would kill me and marry you, if he
could stop your seizures. Brushing back
that sweated weed on your pillow
that in a former life I knew as hair
like molten butter, I pull from my waistcoat
a vial; the juice of a purple lion of a flower,
an anemone, spined and silken like you.
Too much cure and your dance of death,
will wake the mountains. They will groan
and stand straight and goats will tumble,
screaming, from their backs. Too little
and nothing will happen. You will slowly rot
here in this pokey room. The years will find me
playing backgammon with my rival,
crushing glans-mauve petals
between my fingers.