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by Ruth Padel | |

HERODOTUS IN EGYPT REMEMBERS DELOS

 The ground verdigris, fluffy with young mosquitoes.
Waters as sacred as these, as fatted with reeds.
Bronze palm planted to Sun.
Lizards, Nile alligators, hindquarters rolling on granite sphinx-chippings.
Air salted with confident brown larks, Travelling, you remember (mind upturning these foreign priests, finding the causes) that stamen-summit: white long unbloody altar, giddy blues under you, calyx of bronze flat islands unfolding, blind.


by Ruth Padel | |

TIGER DRINKING AT FOREST POOL

 Water, moonlight, danger, dream.
Bronze urn, angled on a tree root: one Slash of light, then gone.
A red moon Seen through clouds, or almost seen.
Treasure found but lost, flirting between The worlds of lost and found.
An unjust law Repealed, a wish come true, a lifelong Sadness healed.
Haven, in the mind, To anyone hurt by littleness.
A prayer For the moment, saved; treachery forgiven.
Flame of the crackle-glaze tangle, amber Reflected in grey milk-jade.
An old song Remembered, long debt paid.
A painting on silk, which may fade.


by Ruth Padel | |

TRIAL

 I was with Special Force, blue-X-ing raids 
to OK surfing on the Colonel's birthday.
Operation Ariel: we sprayed Jimi Hendrix loud from helis to frighten the slopes before 'palming.
A turkey shoot.
* The Nang fogged up.
The men you need are moral and kill like angels.
Passionless.
No judgement.
Judgement defeats us.
You're choosing between nightmares all the time.
My first tour, we hissed into an encampment early afternoon, round two.
The new directive, polio.
Inoculating kids.
It took a while.
As we left, this old man came up, pulled on our back-lag jeep-hoods, yacking.
We went back.
They'd come behind us, hacked off all the inoculated arms.
There they were in a pile, a pile of little arms.
* Soon after, all us new recruits turned on to angel-dust like the rest.
You get it subsidized out there.
The snail can' t crawl on the straight razor and live.
I'm innocent.
(This poem was Commended in the 1992 National Poetry Competition)


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by Ruth Padel | |

THE APPOINTMENT

 Flamingo silk.
New ruff, the ivory ghost of a halter.
Chestnut curls, * commas behind the ear.
"Taller, by half a head, than my Lord Walsingham.
" * His Devon-cream brogue, malt eyes.
New cloak mussed in her mud.
* The Queen leans forward, a rosy envelope of civet.
A cleavage * whispering seed pearls.
Her own sleeve rubs that speck of dirt * on his cheek.
Three thousand ornamental fruit baskets swing in the smoke.
* "It is our pleasure to have our servant trained some longer time * in Ireland.
" Stamp out marks of the Irish.
Their saffron smocks.
* All curroughs, bards and rhymers.
Desmonds and Fitzgeralds * stuck on low spikes, an avenue of heads to the war tent.
* Kerry timber sold to the Canaries.
Pregnant girls * hung in their own hair on city walls.
Plague crumpling gargoyles * through Munster.
"They spoke like ghosts crying out of their graves.
"


by Ruth Padel | |

NIGHT

 (published on BLINKING EYE, http://www.
blinking-eye.
co.
uk/writer/padel2.
html ) Then spoke the thunder, shattering the looming blackness of our national life.
The rumble that breaks a spell of the dry season – Saro-Wiwa, "The Storm Breaks" Does a zebra foal dream? Head lower, lower under lenticular dark cloud, he drags harlequin fetlocks, porcelain quails' egg hooflets through pimpling dust, slower, slower through the silver rainbow night, this soot and fester cellar-lighting, electricity of the blue and evil eye.
Night ringed with eyes, gutter-glow of new-soused theatre, hyena, leopard, caracal (that caramel cat with ear tufts, anxious to feed her cubs) watching the lame foal weakened by drought.
All you know is, that you don't know, and are afraid.
Moonshadow where the big rocks laugh apart.
Predator-senses.
Cilia.
Heat detectors crowd this long auditorium, segment after segment of the midnight shuffle-plains.
They radar in on bodies, fluids, molecules of flesh that do not know they glow, they draw.
Let's give him one dream-memory, a zebra wish fulfilled in dazing plod, some sheer green wall of sugarcane.
And look - he's made it through into the bleach and blaze, rose curdling over indigo and lard, this granult scar of dawn.
One more dawn nearer the water.
Sky blood-taggled, blood-tufted, rushes over him like a white bowl at the end of things, the little safe horizon of a pilot's dial, an inventory of therapeutic gems.


by Ruth Padel | |

Kiss

 He's gone.
She can't believe it, can't go on.
She's going to give up painting.
So she paints Her final canvas, total-turn-off Black.
One long Obsidian goodbye.
A charcoal-burner's Smirnoff, The mirror of Loch Ness Reflecting the monster back to its own eye.
But something's wrong.
Those mad Black-body particles don't sing Her story of despair, the steel and Garnet spindle Of the storm.
This black has everything its own sweet way, Where's the I'd-like-to-kill-You conflict? Try once more, but this time add A curve to all that straight.
And opposition White.
She paints black first.
A grindstone belly Hammering a smaller shape Beneath a snake Of in-betweening light.
"I feel like this.
I hope that you do, too, Black crater.
Screw you.
Kiss" And sees a voodoo flicker, where two worlds nearly touch And miss.
That flash, where white Lets black get close, that dagger of not-quite contact, Catspaw panic, quiver on the wheat Field before thunder - There.
That's it.
That's her own self, in paint, Splitting what she was from what she is.
As if everything that separates, unites.
Copyright from Voodoo Shop (Chatto, 2002), copyright © Ruth Padel 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher