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Winter 2008, Volume 24.2


Christopher BarnesPhoto of Christopher Barnes.

Christopher Barnes lives in Newcastle, United Kingdom, where he won a Northern Arts writers award. In July 2000 he read at Waterstones bookshop to promote the anthology Titles Are Bitches, and at Christmas 2001 he gave a reading at Newcastle’s famous Morden Tower. 2005 saw the publication of his collection Lovebites by Chanticleer Press.


The Unsent Letter

My cherished Bosie,
you are a hair-raising fact
with spiteful trancy states,
a fizzling bad blood from your father,
epic poet of nauseating infectious letters,
rampageous mania, rhino-hided moods,
snapped stammering and seizures of fling-about rage
I walk remotely to safe houses
reeling all the way to Paris,
the railtrack swinging like Nemesis.


I have had a message from my sons
they are taking clearance of Switzerland through Italy
to the rattlesnake ribs of the St. Gothard Tunnel,
the most teeth-chattering underpass
where swirls from the firebox congeal,
the engine-driver and conductor
pull on gas visors
as the guards keep the windows pent-up
and ventilators are smothered with jute.
Chokedamp inch by inch
from the frames of panes, the isolated oil-lamp
in the horseshoe arch deadens, calescent fug.
A pandemonium of gurgling and blasting
till all-seeming radiance hops back.


I will not see them again,
they will live in light.


Three numb years are unget-at-able
but we who sicken on prison fare
and in whose vexings
there is no stage but misery
mark off terms and winces
and impeded upsetting hours.


The Proud Father

Papa thinks to himself
in le café Del a Molineux…

in France we only have one word for the different varieties of love.

"O Dinah, Dinah, my chapter and verse wife
pin-up gentile with flaxen hair,
pregnant yesterday
with a depth too heavy to stomach
and a glow."

He worries for us all.

In France we only have one word for the different varieties of love.

"Novels in the embers,
the courtyards are ash. We cringe
at the gung-ho goosesteps, the jump in line,
longing for a quickening of knots
over the North Sea."

Hope is now necessary.

In France we only have one word for the different varieties of love.


"The Time When Rust Invades The Masses"

What are you doing here
in this magnanimous harbour,
seadog division,
sited between docks and the city
where bistros and brassieres, inimitable plazas
rise parallel
to strongrooms converted to spacious apartments?

And why a shamble
past the 1928 celluloid schloss
which they have dubbed "The Movies"
seductively restored—you dally, squint
into a roadhouse
razzling throwback flavours,
a rare Blues soundtrack
tumbling with each refrain.

Sure he’ll remember
dandling in well-lit tramways,
the ersatz Loire Chateau,
grey gable
fussed sprawling sprigging,
the tip-tilted window with cherubs,
folk-fable pucks,
glut of acanthus leaves.

He’ll remember it all,
tracking anxiety over canals,
backwash mangling
borsch with his wife;
you save days like beryls,
yarn them,
a nodding onus at your chest,

There will be forenoons when you let slip,
the plummet of a pebble,
swinging skies,
trance-like submersion,
while nothingness.

And the Art Market gladdens
the square on Sundays.


Break Fast (after Peter Porter’s Ghosts)

On a towel
Slippy tight-spots, water.
Afterwards it reminds me of the tears.

A daughter-in-law curls
Over a swing mirror, I see
A plucky eye,
More plumped
Than all the signallings
In the room. She thinks of a man
With a head of black corkscrews,
I think of school, dispelling myself
In drips of pimply glass.

Lashes unstuck, a pinching
Of brown hair. I love these female rituals.

Something like life is glimmering.
Bobby whoops, Patch barks,
A minute slips.

Dad softens Shreddies.
An innocent jiggle of hand
Bumps dead the cutlery drawers.

Today she’ll clock-off work,
Never coming back
Causing a sore-skin plague
On blue moons.


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