New Poetry: Chair, Lupercalia, California by Abi Curtis

Chair

Not the couch: that animal slumber
disguised beneath tapestries
Not that but the seat he tucked under
an expanse of desk
with its four, elegant insect-legs,
shaped as a man with a blank
totem’s head, arms curved out
to receive.

Dark, cracked leather the colour
of book-binding, or last days of a rose,
the cut nub of a cigar, its ember
catching in the rug, the inside
of my cheek where I chew,
or his. The flavour of Thursday,
a stained wooden spoon, bad luck.
Good luck. A blend of pleasure
and regret. That.
It smells of an Autumn stopped
from turning and swivels
only with effort

preferring to face a crowd
of statuettes: Greek, Roman, Chinese.
Tiny, petrified gods.
Captive audience.
Sit in his place and touch their heads.
Notice the Baboon of Thoth has a skull
smooth as soapstone, as skin. He looks
unlikely but his charge is writing.
Don’t worship; sit with him
and let them watch.
Sink back into the indentation,
ghost of a spine.
Let the arms enclose you,
take this paper,
start again.

©Abi Curtis 2009

Lupercalia

This is a night to go out
Dare the wolves to circle.
Beyond the fire their eyes
uncountable
Beyond those, breathing rolls back
to a forest of firs
shaped as the flights of arrows.

This is a night to go out
Put on layers and layers
Keep your own warmth close
Don’t envy fire in any window
Swivel your ears
to the noises you love
Keep low
Take your leave.

This is the night to go out
Your shoulders roll towards
the Prussian blue of later
the soft-spots of an old dusk
the tender fury of clouds
Follow this logic and

hours from now, you’ll witness
a marriage in the alley-way
six eyes telling you
Keep our secret, we have our reasons
You circle them
Lope to where there’s room
to view approving looks
from the moon.

This is the night you’ll end up
calling through the o-shaped valve
of the throat, long and loud
until everything’s connected
The night you won’t remember how
you made it home
or got like this:
smoky and besotted.

©Abi Curtis 2007

(Originally published in Humbug, Tall-Lighthouse 2007)
California

We dug our heels into the sand at Santa Barbara
and from the shore we witnessed pelicans drilling
down the air through a solidity of water,
breaking the blue skin of the world.

We couldn’t take our eyes from the diving bird:
a beak somewhere between a spoon and a saw,
wise-eyed and plump he targeted lunch,
floating back up with a catch swinging,
packed in the loose suitcase of his mouth.

The pier stretched on with our line of sight
into the haze.

©Abi Curtis 2009

abi-curtis

Abi Curtis recently won the Crawshaw Prize for Poetry and her collection Unexpected Weather is forthcoming from Salt. She won an Eric Gregory award in 2004 and published a pamphlet, Humbug, with Tall-Lighthouse in 2007. She lives in Brighton and lectures at Sussex University.

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