Weekend Poetry: Six Poems by Chris McCabe


the gentle pornography found in hedgerows

Tom Jenks

Albion’s trees were littered with pornography. Bushes fluffed with shreds of Frazzle. The hawthorn’s back was up, like a pigeon’s ruff. Gutters dealt out playing cards : legs parted in far-off limousines. Shoes trundled from cut-off wire. Space hoppers shrivelled like scrotums at sea.

The internet does it cleaner & everything moves. It was easier to hide a rummy hand beneath your shorts than close down three windows. Behind each one a leprechaun winks above a golden pot. What does roulette have to do with it?

Albion’s streets are relieved. Sparrows are on the incline. Cigarette packs carry warnings for the grown-ups. It’s hard not to look. Throats exposed to holes & growths.

Flesh never used to look like this.


i.m. Tom Raworth


a music box is a kind of ashtray

that poets put their elegies into

they do it in their voicebox

and grind until a memory forms


an elegy is a music box

that poets put their ash into

they do it in their memory

and grind until their voicebox forms



‎ZIGGY STARDUST had just one liver,

ALADDIN SANE, the aspen white of the Young American

had just one liver,



just one liver across THREE MUSKETEERS

– the deck of cards is on the floor –

the phase of the EGYPTIAN GOD had just one liver,

one liver for THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH,

in the PUPPET PHASE he was the one with the liver,

there was just one liver

in the period of the VAMPIRE, a toothless skull

sourced from just one liver



one life



I will see you at the cowslips of Black Ditch,

I’ll have a burned heart & a thread of Milton’s hair,

Blake’s hawthorn & a cup of blood.

At Black Ditch meet me, we’ll flyerbomb the estate,

where the road cuts the Rye & stops

in a cloud of fieldfares & foraging choughs.

Will we meet on Catacombs Path or Dissenters Road?

Washed on the stone or dead on the steps?

Flick light, light flicker : until I come back.


After Hopkins' ‘The Windhover’

An unaccepted pint is a cubed kestrel, hovering on the wind.

Dauphin of the dulled moment’s resistance, this evening’s

evening crown stood chilled there above an oak beam,

then off to down with a swig, the gut & glug chicaning the pining

gullet as it smooths the throat’s glovepurse‎, the glow in the mind

of this glyph refused, the regalia of it, the ‎crystal tardis of the thing!

Amber & wheat clouds to thrushes as it stirs the mind

from familiar grooves & the fire breaks in unexpected converse,

incomparable to the archived inbox & committee’s wet tinder.

No wonder of this : sabbatical fabric rips like face cloths

and the mind shines, O my director, emphatic Erdinger,

take wing your banknote to browngold sustenance!



Poets drive their car to an all night drive-in, alone, lay down a blanket & masturbate.

The poet’s car has three gears : hysterical, stuck & delirious. 

Fuel, for the poet, is tanked old tears. 

Under the poet’s dashboard is an archive of chewing gum, each one given the colour of a lipstick.

Every poet has a photograph of the car they wrote their first poem in. Here, look.

In the backseat poets watch pornography on other people’s data & call it research.

It is, the poet thinks, better to travel than arrive – hope doesn’t come into it.

What the poet sees in the rear view is their oeuvre receding.

Into a light that burns the eyes.


  • Chris McCabe's poetry collections are The Hutton Inquiry, Zeppelins, THE RESTRUCTURE (all Salt Publishing) and, most recently, Speculatrix (Penned in the Margins). He has recorded a CD with the Poetry Archive and was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award in 2013 for his collaborative book with Maria Vlotides,Pharmapoetica. He is writing a series of creative non-fiction books that aim to discover a great lost poet in one of London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries. This began in 2014 with In the Catacombs: a Summer Among the Dead Poets of West Norwood Cemetery (which was selected as an LRB Bookshop book of the year) and was followed in 2016 with Cenotaph South: Mapping the Lost Poets of Nunhead Cemetery. With Victoria Bean he is the co-editor of The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayward Publishing, 2015). He blogs at http://chris-mccabe.blogspot.co.uk/

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