Marcus Smith, from SEZ



I Still Love The Sound

The swoosh of a rock­et faster than space.
How the dis­tance evaporates…
My mes­sage to you.


Cash machine says no.
Peo­ple behind me jab –
The mon­ey arrives with a smile.
I am returning –

Cash machine says no.
These num­bers are correct.
Cash machine says call number.

Cash machine empty.
Wal­let empty.
Banks, coun­tries empty.
How soon is when?



White, grey, black:
The lights are changing.
Take me there, cab driver
Because it’s a dif­fer­ent way.
Because I’ve been tak­ing the same way –
Because I haven’t gone this way.
Because how would I know if it was the way?
Because I can go back to the same way.
Because I don’t mind becom­ing the diversion.



Nobody in the supermarket
And it was 24/7.
Nobody in the offices
And the mes­sages said soon.
No one in the tanks
And it was time to fire.
No one in one store
And it was time to buy.



I love them closed,
Lit up like an aquarium,
Schools of fish flitting,
Colours spread out in rainbows,
Fish­er­men cast­ing nets
O the stores, the soul. 



A tiny entry.
Flats above.
Chi­ro­prac­tor below.
He sleeps in a chair
Each time I go
A bag­gy left­over face,
Twist­ed put­ty slouching
And dressed as tweedy
As an old gentleman.
Today he mum­bles hallo
Slow and fading
As that shrink­ing bird
In the cage in Cairo.
He’s gone tomorrow.
I don’t notice.



Hel­lo, doctor,


No, I’m not. Yes, I am.
(Bare branch­es lash against the window,
Whip­ping the glass case prisoner.)



Some­times. High­er and lower.
(The branch­es com­ing to life,
Start­ing to bud and bloom.
Pink against a grey sky.)



Right there. I’m awake at night.
(High twit­ter­ing of the orioles
In the vast green oak tree
And a plane sil­ver as the sun.)



What if I don’t? I can.
(Hard leaves fall onto frozen ground.)
My time’s over. Some­one else waiting.



My butch­er

On his bike delivering
A wave to me and morning.
Both of us here. Still here.
The phar­ma­cist can read it,
Hur­ried pinched letters –
A code he can decipher
In the face of worry.
A mem­o­ry of every time
He trans­lates love.


Menus, menus,
New tastes from the sorcerers.
Inte­ri­ors by Anno Mirabilis.
Wait­ers who are as gracious
As beau­ti­ful ser­vants for a god.


A street­clean­er,
Sky uni­form, sky glass­es. Sky eyes?
See him float­ing into the sky
And dis­ap­pear­ing blue on blue.
He’s tethered ¬–
A ted­dy bear tied to the handle.


Sleep­ing on the sidewalk.
Sift­ing through the trash.
A man on four legs
Sniff­ing and tug­ging at my legs.
I have a dog at home.
Stand­ing upright, try­ing to walk.

(Fun­ny, I was feel­ing hap­py today.)

Drag­on School

Out the large goth­ic dou­ble doors,
Down dirty red medieval steps
Onto swoosh-honk-honk-“Excuse me,”
“Excuse me”-some-of-them-smiling,
Most dodg­ing you-in-the-way streets.

You are the tail of the Drag­on teacher
And not yet grow­ing your scales,
And the fledg­ing drag­on can’t fly,
Cau­tion clutch­ing heavy hands,
Heads fixed as guards on parade.
A boy and a girl at the back laughing,
Look­ing up at the neglect­ed sky.
Here’s the street leading
To the oth­er street.
There’s a sign lead­ing to the sign.
No sign. Here’s the street.

The walk a muse­um of shops,
The shops today, the famil­iar artifacts ¬–
The remains of a city, unearthed.
I did one last year. Pompeii.

This street curves.
No rea­son it should­n’t be straight.
The sur­vey­or made a mistake,
Made one on purpose.
Thank you, elegance.

As do the streets
The store has a sign
And I’m not lost
Ask­ing the direction
And not listening
On the way to Hurry.

Are you sure, cut-through?
Maybe the next one.
Stick to the straight ones.
A bet on hur­ry lost to lost.
Hur­ry up now, short cut:
Foot­falls of dark­ness laughing.
No one else. Stu­pid me.

The long way was shorter.
Des­ti­na­tion, I didn’t mean to hur­ry you.

You read. In the headlines.
I nev­er know how long.

Maybe there’s a passion.

To be on the street.
To find the qui­et one there.
To sit down at the table outside.
To order a cup.
To be part of the setting.
It’s been going on here
Since the setting.
When there’s time.


We were there next to it,
The robot eyes recording
Every pot­holed block
And stop to go.
We were there, we were
In the ver­sion until the next version.

        (Are we in the next version?)

When you dared not look back
It was me fol­low­ing you into spring.
The peo­ple were blooming.
We were still win­ter. Persephone.


Mouth of the street
Swal­low­ing our last light
Try­ing to escape
In a car rac­ing the oth­er way 
Into deep­er darkness.
Tail­lights and flash­ing lights.
Red lips and red lights.



Text? Call? Where?

My appoint­ments.
Their appointments.
Clouds of abbreviation.
I lost you in the menu.
I did­n’t see your message.
I did­n’t hear your call.
I’m lying. It’s the truth.

The num­ber does­n’t work –
Count the digits:
Num­ber miss­ing a number.
Catch the run­away number.
None of them open the lock.
Maybe if you were some­one else.
Your neigh­bor with the bloodhound.


The Orga­niz­er
Min­is­ters and Administers
Coun­cils and Offices
The Square in the City
The City of the Organizers
The Coun­try of the Councils
The Answers for the Questions
The Ques­tions to the Answers
The Plaza with the Statues


Yes. No. I can’t hear you!
Maybe. Nev­er. Of course.


The voice com­ing faster,
Fol­low­ing me and the street
Turn­ing when I’m turning.
Loud­er, clos­er, here.


My old number’s ringing
And when I answer
The same voice is fol­low­ing me.
Who’s that now?
Not the right beep.
The ring sounds different.
Don’t you know me?
Don’t I know you?
Don’t I know me?


I’m going to save that one
In case I don’t need it.
It will be stored in air
And found when erasing.
I will save the laughter.
Maybe you’ll cry.
In here I can save it.
The mem­o­ry I had.


A maze


On a bus watch­ing me walk.
On the street call­ing you
Wav­ing from a window –
In Hol­land Park dur­ing a tulip day
I see me kiss­ing you
While I’m tying my shoe.
A clock­tow­er. A watchtower.
The hours are watching.
Where are the judges?


Dri­ving with fury of the Furies.
Walk­ing with the speed
Of those heel-toe athletes
Late look­ing for the race.
I did­n’t see you coming,
Wait­ing, watch­ing when
You turn and dive
Into the shop­ping bags.
On the bus, on the train.
In the taxi, in my chair.
At meet­ing. For the greeting.
On the trip. In their chair.


Watch­ing me go by.
Blur on the bus.
See-through reflec­tion in window.


Some­one and manikins.
They look bet­ter than us.
Pass­ing cars and I’m gone.


On the street. In a shop.
Walk­ing to the corridor.
Walk­ing to them. Talk­ing to them
Talk­ing like me talk­ing to me.
Look­ing for the address.
Find­ing the dress.
Think­ing of you thinking
Where you are now.
On the bench. In the sun.
On the grass. On your own.
Some­one smiled today.


Joy when
He kicks a ball into the sky.

Joy after
A ball enters a pic­ture of the sky.

(My phone’s dying.)



Sev­en sto­ries up
Just the structure,
Open as a view­ing deck,
A high dive for the brave
A ten-sto­ry picnic,
The work­ers on lunch
With the short-sleeved sun,
A tanned breeze dry­ing their temples
Before walls and win­dows arrive.


And the scaffolders –


Climb­ing the rigging,
Clang­ing the joints.
The high wobble.
Watch out for them falling

On you, on me.


Bang­ing the pipes,
Bang­ing the brackets.
Cling­ing to masts, 
Sail­ing over chimneypots.

Over me, over you.


The planes line up for the sky.
The sky open for flight.
Remem­ber when we would disappear?
Only the clouds would know.

At the ele­phant factory


We’re mak­ing them again.
Not like before.
No tusks. No hunters
In theme parks. Resorts
Where they used to live.
Every­one loves them.
Except for the shipping.


At the fundraiser


The fire put out, the smoke did­n’t rise
High enough for us to see.
The ambu­lance arrived with a flat –
The police were too late to care.
I haven’t seen you very much at the party.
They want me to give lots of money.
How much does that ques­tion cost?
You will have to bor­row the answer.
If the inter­est is too high,
We’ll call in the militia.
The war was like a peace treaty:
Both sides agreed there were both sides.
Chil­dren were laugh­ing at the trapezoids.
I was too old to under­stand the subtext.
Under the tor­na­do is where I kept the words.
They are fly­ing away to Mauritius.
Some bro­ken into pre­his­toric rants.
Some words melt­ing in the sun.
I’m look­ing back at my lost adjectives.
Can I bor­row one for the era?
No, I have too many to spare
And you must name one isotope
Sep­a­rat­ing love from uranium.
And tell me the dif­fer­ence between
Now cat­a­stro­phe or if apocalypse.
I was danc­ing in the begin­ning of Act I.
In the sec­ond I closed the curtains
And opened the trapdoor:
The audi­ence dis­ap­pears into the ending.
The bal­leri­nas escape through the skylight.
On the roof they pirou­ette for the birds.
With­out a chore­o­g­ra­ph­er they did­n’t fly.
I learned it was more real on film.
Have you seen the movie about the script?
No, it did­n’t respect his­to­ry either.


Strange Bud


She’s nam­ing a tree with small leaves,
A strange bud she knows,
How it tests the cli­mate, blooms and fades.
An old woman spin­ning in a wheelchair
Under a half-green hint of exotica.
The sky is grey, air cold as street cinder.
The woman touch­es an over­hang­ing branch
As if remem­ber­ing the Latin name.
I’m in a place where she used to shout
When rac­ing cold shad­ows to the sun.


And Baby Hen­ry scoot­ers by. “I was dead.
“I was dead like one. And after death…”


In the air­port a sil­ver-haired gentleman
Fix­ing the knot of his pais­ley cra­vat slowly,
Slow­ly sits in a hang­ing, swing­ing chair…

Jump­ing from an over­hang­ing chestnut
Into a blaz­ing pile of crin­kled leaves.
Sharp edges stick­ing into our sweaters.
Burrs we pull out like a romp of monkeys
Groom­ing each oth­er in the African sun.

(I can’t find you.)

On train, on station
I could­n’t find you
And almost sat down
With some­one else
I thought was you.
She said, “Oh.
I thought you were him.”

In house­wares
I saw you going down.
You did­n’t see me.
Slow­ly, I turned around.

I was about to say,
About to say,
I know how it feels
Pass­ing you by.

   (Was that you?)

Here in your network.
In my favorites.
In your messages
A sec­ond after you send.
Here in a buzz, a beep,
A splash of our  liq­uid screens.
Here in our history
Sent by the sky.

                    (My phone’s dead.)

Still bent over devices –
Fin­gers still frozen.
I’ve seen us before.
Lying like corpses
In a huge block of ice
Res­cue work­ers hammer.
We slow­ly are melting.
I’ve lost all your messages.

(Do we need tickets?)

We are now ready,
Wait­ing for the journey,
When will it start
Where will it go?
Oh, we’re already there.
Direc­tions fol­low­ing us.
In a room of fold­ing chairs
There are windows.


Présentation de l’auteur

Marcus Smith

Mar­cus Smith is a Cin­na­mon Press Book Awards final­ist and Plough Prize and Poet­ry on the Lake Prize win­ner. His work has appeared in the UK and Europe in The Rial­to, Ambit, PN Review, Acu­men, Stand, The French Review and Poet­ry Salzburg; in the US Prairie Schooner, South Car­oli­na Review, Able Muse, The Clas­si­cal Out­look and Salma­gun­di have pub­lished his work. The excerpt here from the man­u­script SEZ/everything speaks (Live Canon, Lon­don, 2014)… A Sequence of Texts finds kin­ship in Georges Perec’s An Attempt At Exhaust­ing A Place In Paris and fla­neurs from Baude­laire and John Foxx. 


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