Pride of Place
The Hand of Dominic
Dominic has the most feared handshake on the quays.
His legendary swoops plunge out of nowhere to seize
your unsuspecting paw. It may be only a squeeze,
but strong men have been known to grow small in self-defence.
A useless ploy. He descends out of the heavens
and subjects you to an out of body experience,
a feeling of being drawn into an alien world
of how-do-you-dos, where politesse is not imperilled
by distinctions, such as who you are. The blood curdles.
One pounce and he’s off to find more flesh to press.
Nobody is safe - man, dog, child. Save the pretty miss,
or two, who seem to welcome his double-cheek kiss.
The bogeyman does not come in a frightening form.
Had you time to see him you’d be reassured. He’s norm-
al enough, pas mal. A big Englishman, well-born,
galloping towards you in cheque shirt and red pants,
shock of white hair, smile glowing with benevolence
and a colonial complexion, stretching out his hands.
Dom’s a rubicund chap crossing a Rubicon
from which there is no withdrawal. He, to some,
is a great cock of paradise, crowing his own
while old men at death’s door cry out, ‘He’s coming for me.
Amputez mes pattes’. Dom’s shadow is what they see
wanting to give them a hand. I’d like them to know
he’s a son of the manse who’s desperate to show
how nice he’s to everyone, not a loup-garou.
The Nicotine Cat, Six Year On
‘I look into myself,
your eyes fixed on me.’ Baudelaire, ‘Le Chat’
You’ve settled for an easy life, what’s left of it,
moving sometimes to trap the odd fly. You’re couchant
on the table under the mimosa tree in
the hanging garden where Messieurs David and Jackie
talked of higher things while the Creole fed them
delicacies. Her man-without-a-name poured the wine.
Lilies abound on the terraces and roses
climb the walls. The sun drops down behind the mountain,
and the glow of the yellow and white marguerites
lingers in the air with the whiff of cigarettes.
The man-without-a-name raises his pot of red
to me, and the chat stops to observe my passage.
Now the Creole hacks dead flowers in housecoat and scarf.
The gown she wore to host the ancient evenings
is a shroud of silk from the South that wraps the dead
when the time comes to raise them as a reminder
to watch over what remains. Those voluptuous nights
are black and white prints in your one surviving eye.
Stephanie’s Send-off on the Feast of St Amour
'Saint Amour is the patron saint of a little village in the mountains. Nothing is known of him or her. So the ecclesiastical calendar says ‘a saint with no distinctive colour or digit or characteristics’. In other words, love is colourless, nobody has its number and never mind its quality as long as you feel its length.’
On the steps of the Church of Our Lady of Divine Grace
the verger and one of his concubines are sweeping up
the remains of the marriage. The confetti paper chase
by some miracle, between the fingers and the cup,
changed crepe into rice and a wish is inscribed on each grain.
These votive offerings towards a future life together
are no doubt a wedding between the sacred and profane.
A dust-pan receives them. Still the pair have got the weather,
and cavalcade through the sunny streets in an open car
blithely caparisoned, the horn sounding a sustained hoot.
The glorious bride stands up, waving to former lovers,
white dress a tricolour against the red tie and blue suit
of the couchant groom, who’s holding her back from taking flight.
She is being launched into his world to proudly walk their pram.
But more fool he if he thinks it’s for him she has got right
her yellow hair: the veil has flown off and there isn’t a man,
woman or child in town who hasn’t stopped to admire
this celebration of herself as she throws them shingle
from the beach, flowers from Florian’s and kisses of fire
from the heart, before settling back down to being single.