Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Helix in B-Coil’ and other poems by Selina Whiteley

By: Selina Whiteley

Helix in B-Coil

After Alan Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California”
Foucault, I see you, frail and gaunt, your pneumatic lungs,
collapsing, as with rasped breaths you flirt
with that dark-haired paramedic.
Do you not think of your Defert? We need him now,
as we need you. The world is frantic.

We’re combing hedgerows for meaning, not even a morsel.
We’ve lost out on seeing the parks flourishing
and greening into April or hearing the Eastern Bluebird
sing pure and a capella into an air without impurities.

Can this all be biopolitics? This pandemic?
What do you make of this pandemonium? These blaring sirens
spitting out lumens against the tenements and skyscrapers
where people are gathered with coughs
like cirrus clouds that dissipate into this new, gathering darkness.


“A World Not of Angels but Of Angles”

She strives, too much
like intoxicated sunlight, in August,
rhapsodic at the window,

mind spinning, a quadzillion, wild photons
of thoughts dangling off the mezzanine
though the sparrows warble,
less concerned than yesterday by the weather.

I think of Alinsky’s lament,
this is a world not of angels but of angles.
as she screams against the charcoal night.


Weathered by Winter

Twenty horrific years wormed into our minds
like nightmares: slaughter, sentences, sacrifice,
but always there was music. December,
late nineties, a guitar against the denim thigh
of your jeans, your feet were stretched out

by a campfire lit on a patch of oak leaf
crusted mud. I thought how the earth
shook and trembled in sympathy with the sun,
how low the phosphorous moon
looked behind the flourishing oaks.

Sheep and cattle went from hills filled
with the pearl-lace of elderflower to abattoirs.
The forest crisped to September, elm leaves
fell like confused thoughts on the mountains
that hid our secrets in deep-cast mines.

Whispers on the foothills were the soft
yet sinister coming undone of fossilised shale
in a warming world. Our mouths wet from kissing,
we scoured the earth for new nouns,
fresh ways of seeing, even as the fire spat out

its thousand sibilants and alluring sweet nothings.
We saw men, hammering into the wooden planks
of their homes, as into syntax.
The bitter winter eroded the profound muscles
of their labour like a tongue.

Two decades on, our world has quietened, cooled.
We suppress a string like a sorrow,
stay silent, as if our vocal cords, were unpicked.
A stone wall leans into an outcrop of grass
in the solace of another dawn. The fire is all burnt out.


Lost in the February North Wind

Our friends are lost, as ever, somewhere between their Rizzlas
and their dreams. I stare into my cider, thinking of you,
remembering how, when nothing split the death
in the hard ground, save perhaps a scarce grass shoot or flower,
you read the future in drags of ale.

You ran your fingernails along zips whose two halves
embraced and sucked like lovers. Wheezed fluid,
as your cigarettes waned down to slow deaths over the pages
of a wide open magazine, after the atomic ricochet
of hangover you opened the tobacco packet and scattered-

the flakes seeped into hidden veins in the blood-red tablecloth.
We left the ashes for another day, I was blind
to the silent claim of lymphoma on your purpling flesh
or how you woke breathless from nightmare black.
I look at the Japanese gardens, a woman receives a phone call

Bringing the worst of news, her screams unsettle the tranquil waters
of a Zen garden. She falls, disturbs the patterns in combed gravel.
But what can I do but watch, tears well in her eyes.
I only think of you. The dawn chorus no longer your alarm clock.
nor the stars your bedside lamp.


The Dying Fishmonger


An intense dryad
obsessed with cooling down,
your eyes are hollow dusk,
your veins are hard,
lifeless as twisted twigs.


Like you, the fish
is freed from the sea
into glittering whiteness
where, disc-eyed and beached,
the limp body lies in fishmonger’s dry ice.


Eyes thick with film,
you look into the mirror
dampen your flesh
with cloth

You try
to become for an instant
that fish’s corpse –
uncrazed, still, frozen,

something has caught you
and you drop
through a maelstrom
of years

to become cold,
rigid with rigor mortis
on a marble,
mortuary slab

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