Siobhan Campbell’s latest book of poems is Cross-Talk (Seren, 2009); this follows collections The Permanent Wave, Darwin among the machines and That Water Speaks in Tongues (Templar). Born in Dublin, Siobhan now lives in Washington DC where she teaches for Kingston University London. She publishes widely in the US and the UK, including in The Southern Review, Crab Orchard Review, Poetry, Magma, Agenda and Wasafiri. She has awards from the National, Troubadour, Wigtown and Templar Poetry Competitions and is anthologized in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe) and The Field Day Anthology (NYU Press).
Gather together, whisper into the ferns, send a trill
out with the mistle thrush. What we have to learn
is that they must be heard. If they arrive all at once
to remind us of a plague, mutant in their anger,
loud in their sway, then we might be persuaded,
even while netting drains, sealing the gaps in outer doors.
Be ready to puncture that inner ear, it is no longer
needed. Brace yourself for commotion. A brouhaha
if ever you saw one. Tumult of absence, uproar of lack.
Without them it seems, nothing is fertile; wheat becomes
an illusion, oil will not press from seeds that were not crossed.
Who knew the workers had a feel for dork and drone?
Castrati singing in our ears while we sweltered,
checking our influence in waves of disproportion.
Research shows that genes are not the problem.
We resolve to put a capsule into space, a narrative
for those who may yet come. Listen to the hedges
it will say. Remember, to swarm is not to warn.
The trough beside the house is thick
with dashed hopes. There before brick,
before mortar, for travelling horses, stages
from their posts, its sides poured and patted
keep the mark of spade and blade, spit
in its motted pocks and fear of the ganger.
This is the drowning spot for runts of litters,
sow’s disgrace squealing down the night,
when straw runs short and tempers fester envy.
Here birds fall, the souls of angels trapped
in slow-flapped deaths though no-one ventures
why in heaven’s name they failed to fly.
But it’s the cat, set on the aspic shelf
that stays wet to the touch. Rigor bound
with four trip-rigid legs. Cat in its drowned
death no longer Tabby, but something more dead,
more of a shock to find in the wide morning
of visitor delight than any reminder
that we know nothing yet.
Pastimes in occupied territory
Re-naming the institutions.
Counting the freckles between sleeve and sling.
Watching the mountains change colour in time
to the drums.
Matching ghosts to their namesakes,
licking their like out of bricks.
Dismantling the wall
and re-making it as a cube.
when plates take off across the room.
How many troubled souls to make a poltergeist?
Re-drawing the districts.
Counting the votes due from each house.
Adding in name variations
in three official languages.
Calculating the rate of shift,
taxes due on the living and the dead.