He do, Slate, A feeling for the place & Fifty years of plastic
[ poetry - march 05 ]
A human loyalty card. A grocery detective.
He reminds shoppers which vegetable they forgot
last time, directs them to their next stall.
(Row E is his meridian or baseline -
he fixes objects by their offset from it)
Heís not employed as such but fills in
as a figurehead.
Letters arrive headed
Mr Decimal, Market Place, NR2.
The Council has mislaid its bold plans
for a market redevelopment. He hasnít seen them
though that doesnít mean he canít locate them:
his affinities run to all things with their past
or their future on the market.
new paths through what he knows. Each afternoon
he sits by Our Glorious Dead eating toast,
allowing faces, outfits, bruise marks
on deliveries of fruit to settle down
and be recallable. Redevelopment?
Itís constant, patterned, and wholly in his grasp.
Obviously writing down what goes on here
betrays the way, the weather, the light
in which our banter constantly uncoils.
Why lay it out in lines, parallel and stiff?
Whatever spicy language gets dished out
- and when some clot barges into the egg trays
or Ipswich lose at home we donít hold back -
by five weíve swept up, hosed down, dumped the lot
into the trade waste bins, their mouths banged shut.
So whatís your aim exactly? A sketch? A score?
This isnít ballet with a tight notation
for each slide and point, this isnít routine
factory work. Look, a rack of lamb
carried underarm down row G, and there
a plate of toast, going north. Go on
follow, take notes, try to get in print,
but outside shouting distance of these stalls
the page will stay white and you will twig
what is yours to keep and yours to give.
A feeling for the place
What I love about a spud is its handshake
What I hate about tea is the takeaway cup
What I love about an orange is its slick use of language
What I hate about pine is its thirst
What I love about rain are the points that it makes
What I hate about plastic is the way that it clings
What I love about a starling is its guttersnipe sheen
What I hate about beef is its mystery
What I love about fish are the colours that are gone
What I hate about mange-tout is their appetite for travel
What I love about plastic is its eagerness to please
What I hate about a letter is knowing I may lose it
What I love about coins is the moment when they drop
What I hate about a palm is its fist
What I love about a grid is equality of space
What I hate about words is the stink when they roost
What I love about talk is its wings
What I hate about starlings are their idiotic schemes
What I love about this slope is its general inclination
Fifty years of plastic
Brittle tea spoons, ice-cream tubs for sugar,
under the egg rolls, vinyl mats whose motif
of fir trees is worn down to the branch,
grey acrylic chopping boards leathered with nicks,
tills with bakelite keys and metal drawers,
polycarbonate roofing: temporary stuff
finding a home made from temporary stuff.
Breaking the spirit that made it, it persists,
becomes reusable, acquires grain and grot:
the pattern of cracks on a sign slowly enters
a customerís mind; the nimbus of bacon fat
shows the ketchup to its ritual spot.
So overnight if everything were smashed
with patience it could be rebuilt, each piece
jigged back into the whole from which emerges
commerce, conversation, Thomas Browneís truth:
the plastick or formative faculty, from matter appearing
homogeneous, and of a similary substance,
erecteth bones, membranes, veynes and arteries.