NEW POETRY BY STEPHEN KEELER

STEPHEN KEELER won a Scottish Book Trust New Writing Award in 2015 and published his chapbook While You Were Away in 2018 (Maquette Press). He was shortlisted for the Winchester Poetry Prize 2018 and has been published in journals including Northwords NowSouth Bank PoetryThe Poets’ RepublicGutter. Stephen also teaches on creative writing workshops, courses and residencies.


 

Life Class

When we still drew, and wrote on paper,
we did that thing you did back then
after sex – when you couldn’t say for sure
that it was after sex: I lit two cigarettes together
and handed one to you.

I didn’t know you understood it as a gesture
as erotic as my old blue shirt
hanging limp across a chair not made for comfort.

How could I not have been distracted
by your leaning on one elbow
turned toward the light, like landscape,
the day smeared across the window,
a map of blurred suggestion;
your clothes – sex in themselves –
memorised through smoke.

We used to draw, had coloured chalks
and Indian ink, and pulled a flawless line
across stiff paper, like a finger memorising contours.

 

 

Place de l’Horloge

I sat with a drink in the sun
which hadn’t yet begun
to overcook the morning.
I’d learned to call it
Un Ricard, s’il vous plaît:
“In the South, one doesn’t order a pastis”,
I was instructed by the expert ex-pats
I avoided in the mornings
but found were better company after dinner.

I sat with my drink in the sun,
Figaro folded open
to look as though I’d read it,
placed for a book-cover photo-shoot:
there should’ve been a fountain-pen,
a coffee cup, my glasses,
a postcard and a pair of stamps.
You might want to call it lonely.

I sat with a drink in the sun
which hadn’t yet begun
to burn the edges of the day.
There was an ashtray in the shape
of a woman’s torso: black glass
streaked with a peremptory wipe;
a folded beer-mat
wedged under one leg
kept my chair from tipping.

I sat with a drink in the sun
which hadn’t yet begun
to fire up an appetite for sleep:
a plastic chair,
the smell of drains and motor-scooter fuel,
an idea of lavender gone before I’d thought it,
and a man with a nervous dog,
and a woman with a naked ham
slouching in a string bag.
(I thought of night-club dancers’ legs
in fishnet, and a pale and rolling man
tattooed and in a vest.)

I sat with un Ricard,
and some configuration
made me look –
You in all your purpose,
not seeing me (not looking),
coming through the market crowds
and tourists trying to get lunch
at the wrong time of day,
the sun beginning now to sear
a slow weld across the sky.

You with your phrasebook French,
a paper bag, no hat, and then your arm
raised as though I was the last thing you’d expected:
not drowning but waving,
and I, sitting with a drink in the sun,
swollen with the pride of secret knowledge

and a temporary kind of ownership –
that neck, those shoulders, freckled cheeks;
the cool of you, the warm of you,
the dazzling seagull white of you,
the salt-perfume; the waiting,
the approach of you;

and me sitting with a drink in the sun.

 

 

Quiet City

The lights keep changing through the night
as though expecting nothing else to happen.

A low-slung taxi prowls; a tail-light flares,
and neon slithers from its roof.

The doorway litter lifts its head and turns;
a painted sign declares no vacancies

beside the empty car park,
beside the redbrick wall,

beside the shut-down drive-thru
while the lights keep on changing through the night.

 

 


All works published by the Glasgow Review of Books are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and the journal reserves the right to be named as place of first publication in any citation. Copyright remains with the poet. http://www.glasgowreviewofbooks.com


 

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