ISSUE 22
February 2003

Tim Cumming

 

Tim Cumming Tim Cumming is a poet and journalist from London. Books include The Miniature Estate and Apocalypso. Wreckingball Press is publishing his book-length poem "Contact Print" in April, 2003. He has poems and articles in many newspapers, magazines, and Websites in Britain, Europe, and America.
September Sonnets    Click to hear in real audio


After seven years underground
he finally boarded a long haul flight
and walked through security
with bloodshot eyes that no one
who met them would ever forget
where they were, the time,
the pressure, inch for inch,
an eye for an eye, the angry old man
of the mountain pushing rocks
from the mind's cavity. Time
is upon us. The tongue of a man
is one half, the other is the mind
and nothing between them but
the shape of flesh and bone.

     *
Wait there,  she said. The voice
came from another story, a higher window,
luminous lights of the abyssal plain
and signals from deep space. We couldn't
make head or tail of them. At the corner
of Stamford Street on the steps of the
Schiller International University
a pigeon fell dead at my feet, the
events of the day returned to their houses,
the unthinkable in confession,
the crowded trains, postcards from abroad,
raised armies, fear of attack
the endless distances in small spaces,
the high altitude at ground zero.
          
     *
We were travelling without a permit,
and white shirts hung on the line, Victorian linen,
shadows dancing in the security area, you could
smell the fear, shake out the bottle tops,
the flowering tips. There were temporary shelters
for the heavy weathered. Love and fear set up their
instruments in the dark, only the blue flame of the
pilot light to see by and only one pail of water in the
whole dream city, one high palm over the white monument.
I turned my eyes to heaven and turned up the bass
for godliness, reverb, loose sheaves of  paper history
flapping from the windows of the top deck, small holes
filled with blue smoke and red faces, the tribe
that never realised how close they were to the sky.

     *
We shot the whole roll, exposed ourselves
to the elements, wringing water from our traveller's
cheques but everything we took came out dark,
we were lost in space, unexplained facts
nailed to the door of the impossible,
milling the future to a fine dust.
I was walking the decks for the perfect
moment in which to relax and face the facts,
avoiding crowds and crowded trains
as faint as postcards that never arrived
from destinations that no longer exist,
caught between times, the thread of a tune
running from station to station,
the religious fury of the stop watch.

     *
The day the clocks stopped I lost control of my hands,
fingers twisted over a gallon jar of clear stuff,
my fingers had a life of their own like the stars
of silent cinema, single frames abandoned
in medieval Europe like helicopter parts,
Bede at the telephone and sudden gaps
in the record, species free of punctuation
and full of murmer, gossip, hearsay.
Throw a penny into the fountain, rub eggshell
on your fingers, don't ever rock an
empty rocking chair. The boys were picking cherries
from the tree, I remember the ferry captain's advice:
to bring good luck cover a white sheet
with laurel leaves and sleep on that.

     *
Death is like the blundering
of a blind camel and war is not
what you think it is or know of it
or what is said and what you suppose
of it. When you stir it up you
will have raised an accursed thing
for it will be greedy
when you excite its greed
and it will rage fiercely
and you will be ground
like the grinding of the upper
millstone against the lower millstone,
and war will conceive immediately
after the first birth and produce twins.

     *
A cross marks the spot where the plane came down,
the foot blown off, still in its boot.
A local madman mingled with militia
swallowing bullets and asking them if they'd
started yet. They were on the roof,
they were classified information, standing room
only in the observation tower, the smoke
of a thousand fireworks and cigars,
and line upon line of crosses
in the official record: the door kept shut till
Domesday. The first cross came in capitals like St Peter,
the last cross the one you never return from
and the whole alphabet in between,
the livestock from alpha to omega.

     *
The countdown's in Arabic numerals,
the static fuzz from Disney Channel
snagged in the fabric of the nightwatchman's
greatcoat. Picture this: three agents
in a New Jersey motel room mixing explosives
strung with torn muscle, musical tape and smashed TVs
hung from telephone wires in Taliban territory
and the phones disconnected, they're dead phones,
dead skin, dead women, parts of men, fingers,
big winds, one foot missing, the one survivor
cradling ullulations to god in his ancient receiver
to haunt unbelievers with misheard rumour.
So all eyes to heaven and fists raised against sunlight,
steam over the pot, leaves in the kettle.

 

 

Tim Cumming: Poetry
Copyright 2003 The Cortland Review Issue 22The Cortland Review