‘Mope’ by Caroline Bird

Sometimes the day goes silent, mouths
move in the street, people change, glide,
the click of a new slide in the projector,
chewing gum loses its flavour, people
kiss now, talk later, watch through glass,
pass through, pasteurise, curtains twitch
behind averted eyes, everyone is looking
for a word that isn’t love, because love
is loud and the roads are blanketed,
we pick up the phone just to listen.
It takes research, graphs, ammunition
to say goodbye, each sentence
requires a hundred more, but darling,
my tongue is sore, I want to lie you down,
here on the pavement, put my head on your neck
like there’s a geyser beneath us
that could flood the whole town.
Sometimes the day stops, people freeze,
one foot on the bus, or standing in crowds
holding bottles in the air, like realizing
your skirt has been unravelling since breakfast,
and the day empties out,
lifts upside down, shakes like a purse,
my lip is burnt, my clothes smell of smoke again
and I love you. It’s raining. Just look at the rain.

from Trouble Came to the Turnip by Caroline Bird, which has been shortlisted this week for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She’s 22 years old, lives in Oxford. I think this poem is about me. Just kidding. I like the part where she says “pasteurise.” The last line makes me feel squirmy and embarrassed but then I chide myself for shutting myself off from love and the world. I like how this song samples Suicide. I have completely lost the ability to be productive for more than eight minutes at a time.

UPDATE: The more I think about it, the less I like this poem. “Pasteurise” is ruined by rhyming with “averted eyes.” I keep almost being excited about a skirt unraveling since breakfast until I realize how… boring it is. Her clothes smell like smoke because she was in a gastropub with other poets, not because she was kneeling over a lamb burning in a ritual pyre, as she should have been.

Here is a sexist response poem I am about to write to expunge her “rain” from my “brain”:

My skirt has been unraveling since
The steak burnt
In umbrage. Oxford is a sex-stuffed boulevard.
We are not friends. Your carpal tunnel
Syndrome is not sexy.
The dons don’t like dub.

Genesis P. Orridge is nonvegan.
My boyfriend is a Welsch scholar.
My girlfriend has Celtic thighs.
Freud’s afternoons in Oxbridge were like a pair of couches fucking.
Nobody’s blood is shooting up your nose.

Milk through a high-pressure nozzle
Hits newsprint with a sound like rain.
Your jumper hits the floor.
Is this poem going to draw a lawsuit?
Will you meet me, naked, in Santa Cruz?
Naked? British? Lonely? Unhinged? Sober?

A shaved ferret weeps openly on Mother’s Day.
A woman has drawn heiroglyphs in Sharpie on Damon Albarn’s throbbing erection.

San Francisco, 2008