Saturday, 30 November 2013

Two fire poems

Poem Pigeon has been running a competition for poems on the theme of fire.  I posted on the site two from my back catalogue, and entered one of them in the competition.  See my post of 6 October 2013 for my take on this way of entering competitions by web posting.

The poem I entered in the fire competition was 'Testing' from 2004, drawing on my experience as fire safety manager at work.


Some have professed they cannot tell
the weekly testing of the bell
from fire alarms. So let's spell out
the difference in case of doubt.

Testing the bell's a burst of clang,
over if it's a second long.

But clang that bursts and goes on bursting,
doors swung to, opened, swung to, swung to,
voices, feet, then no feet, no voices,
and clang goes on, and through the window
flashes of orange, knots of people,
and clang goes on, and clang goes on,
that means get out, the clang's a drill
for real, burst dress-rehearsalful,
get out, the clang's a clang for fire,
or drill for fire, get out for real,
find the fresh air, get out for real.

Let that become the meme of bells.
Let people know it in bones and bowels.

And the one I posted on Poem Pigeon, without, in the end, entering it in the competition, was the fourth from a sequence of seven that I wrote in the late 1990s, exploring animal metaphors.   The title of the sequence was 'Beasties'. Maybe I had no business co-opting fire into the animal kingdom, but it seemed to work at the time.



Another beast -- it rhymes with liar --
will suit our purpose, namely fire,
fire, the old process, virtual
spirit, virtual animal:
from her straight yellow stream of hair
like candlewax half-dried in air,
through all the risks attending paper
when file or bin did not escape her,
down to the glee she took in blame
and fanning issues into flame,
she was a fire; even the one
leak that she sprang quite early on,
by way of an experiment
in trouble (should she reinvent
her problem as incontinence?),
does nothing to put out the sense
of fire -- no, still retained from school,
a Latin verb is pungent fuel:
uro, burn, worry, chafe, annoy.

For traceless killing, hear the ploy
that gangsters used: a cylinder
of CO2 against one ear,
release the pin and squeeze the handle,
and blow the brain out like a candle.

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