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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This poem is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.

‘Grodzinksi’s Kosher Bakery’ and Other Poems Michael Brett
Tomorrow it will all run backwards

Tomorrow, it will all run backwards:

The steel tsunamis will froth back upwards
And become solid again.
The planes will be pulled out like javelins
And slide backwards, swallowing their vapour trails.

Tomorrow, everyone will be fine.

Tomorrow, everyone who died will come home.
They will sit again at the tables of home
And rejoin life’s fellowship, its snapshots
And picnics.

Tomorrow, all will be well.

It will be as if it all never happened.
Everyone will sleep as babies do under mobiles,
Untroubled by strange sounds, of aero engines
Flying too low and shadows cast over the streets.

Tomorrow, mobile phones will just be toys again.



The Return of Sparrowhawks to Battersea Power Station

High on a power-station chimney top,
Aloof in a nest and always hungry,
Imagine the city as a sparrowhawk sees it:

The surrounding clouds, pale and thin as ribs in sand;
The tube trains clattering like spoons,
The plane wings like steel knives and forks,
Over the city.

Wings spread like concertinas, they fall, then fly
To drift on light rumours of a breeze
Reviewing – with cool fighter pilot’s eyes –
The estuary mouth, the metropolis gulping reservoirs;
The beef-gut diagram of the uncoiled Thames

High over the globe; high over the Hammersmith flyover,
They tilt their wings, indifferent to the streams of words and cars.

To their infrared, in the bright maze of the streets below
Each rat glows like a burning coal.
They are camera guns focusing to single points,
Ransacking all of London with their eyes.



On Easdale Island

On Easdale island, the rain is bilingual but
The wind speaks Gaelic and the sea speaks English, but
The faces in the scree and cliffs are always silent.

Sometimes, like imagined Easter Island heads, I can see entire families, with eyes of moss
Staring over the flooded quarries, each one an oblong pool of water, on its back
As if lounging on a beach towel, each casually
Reviewing the surgeon Moon at the black Atlantic’s bedside.

Sometimes, like a dying man, the hissing sea breathes aloud,
Recalls its greatness; thinks of the thousands made to wave goodbye;
Or turns in its bed and sees
The entrance to the Firth of Lorn, with its remains
Of beached, torpedoed ships; where
The hooligan sea stops thumping in the shallower water,
And – pointing its waves – makes a scholarly demonstration
Of parallelograms; of every trapezium in giant and rusting steel
From vanished shipyards.

Above them, in the muttering cliffs, imagined faces in granite albums pass one another
Impossible and dangerous bouquets of stunted trees,
Wedged in gaps more impossible than chance; ones that threaten too
A final midnight plunge, like King Alexander’s horse in
Geological storms of flying kings
And families waving, waving from one-way ships.



Grodzinksi’s Kosher Bakery

Coiled in the ammonite darkness, we never see the future
But confuse it with rumours and predictions
Of Thunderbirds Tracy Island
And cheap holidays on the moon.

Look. Here is survival. Marc Bolan ate here
In the Manor House kosher bakery. Around us, like gentle waves,
The ultra-orthodox slide the bread across the glass counter
Which reflects their faces upside down.
The hats, the shtreimels, like sci-fi flying saucers, converge
Both in Yiddish and in English.

A pretty, young black woman, with a baby in a pushchair,
Passing by outside, hardly glances at the busy lunchtime trade;
Or the Yiddish writing, like the marks of birds’ feet on a kind of beach
Where survivors of European shipwrecks nest and thrive.

Shafts of light, black coats and stacks of bread converge in columns
Like a backwards look at Futurism in the Tate.
A kind of joy weaves together with the voices and the bread,
On a safe and final island
Where the London bus turns left to Stamford Hill.

The future was never to be a holiday on the moon,
And the buzzing in the earth we hear
Is not miners’ drills, but inside a kind of amber,
Where a giant dragonfly is not dead but still alive.



The Crab Nebula Tea Detectives

Each mile in the universe is a longing for more tea.
We are the Crab Nebula Tea Detectives. We rummage in stellar constellations
For teas in other worlds, on other planets.
We have found tea in the Crab Nebula exhaling purple gas;
London blend Darjeeling Tea in clouds longer, straighter than the Jurassic or Cretaceous ages.
Constellations, clouds of English Breakfast Tea both conceal and reveal mystery,
Like a lover’s shoes behind bedroom curtains;
But the Crab Nebula cluster conceals both the directness of the burglar and the honesty of Tea
Outside the Van Allen Belt, among the meteors, the satellites chirping in digital codes.

Old Tea Detectives never die, we name stars after them
In Constellations Dad and Auntie.
That way, we can see and drink with them forever,
Not like mugshots at the station,
But in a private gallery, high and over us in star clusters
Like golden picture frames. We are never alone if we look up,
During a gun fight or a car chase over tea.
Our religious denomination is Darjeeling, hot brown tea.
It is stronger than snow, stronger than official stamps.
It steams in every Universe. It lifts Schrödinger cats from armchairs
And firemen out of trees.

Tea is the eternal primal substance of the Universe.
It burns yellow inside all Suns and in all souls.
It drives power plants. It drives the worm. It grows black inside the coal mines,
In false beards and honest disguises. The bullet that flutters like a butterfly
Towards the sunlit body armour sings itself to sleep as it dreams
Of Darjeeling, and of PG Tips in bags. In supermarkets,
Boxes of biscuits sing like Cambridge choirs to the teabags,
Each one dancing, like Nijinsky, to the sounds of kettles, to the dance of spoons
Pirouetting inside cups. Their Assam and their dunking
Curves around the Rings of Saturn in the Time and Space Continuum.

Our Quantum Teas are each a quantum ballerina spinning,
Inside each and every Sun, untouched by Time’s decay, or even the smallest changes.
They are both remote and far, Einsteinian in complexity and simplicity.
The wonders and the truths of tea ride like surfboards on wave crests, faster than light,
Faster than steam. They arrive before they leave.

That is the mystery of the Universe: its dimensions like cakes, the sandwich-pink streaks
Of Jupiter and the blue, forgotten sardine depths of Pluto; each colour longing, stretching
Itself towards the little match-flame Sun, millions of miles away;
Each mile in the Universe is a longing for more tea.



Bodiam Castle

The castle guards nothing now but summer:
Standing knee-deep in its moat, silent, like a fisherman
Among its lily pads, its frogs, its willow trees
And buzzing biplane dragonflies.

Through the yellow oblong arrow slits and doorless doorways
You can see them all, like impressionist paintings,
The flowers and the fish ruffling the ancestral lace
At the throat of evening.

This afternoon, the helmet, the longbow
And the hands that fed them were lost, forgotten
Like the pollen of petrified forests;
Like swords in a lake.

But tonight, look down from the tower at the headlights:
The army convoys wink and are gone
And – above us – fighter jets like Bolsheviks in a Russian palace
Leave snowy footprints in the corridor air;

And everything that seemed so straight, so true,
Was just the prelude to some imperial theme
Where a triumphant Othello kills not just his wife.

This poem is taken from PN Review 258, Volume 47 Number 4, March - April 2021.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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