Steve Xerri – two poems

Needle Work

I want a poetry that has stopped taking selfies
& trains its lens instead through a backstreet window

several storeys up, to focus on a machinist
who works with fabric she could never afford

on the wage she’s paid for sewing it, poetry
that notes how she wrings value from unclocked

slivers of time when her thought veers off, freed
by some fleeting sideshow in the burning-up of hours –

let’s say when she notices how offcut loops of ribbon
mimic curlicues of seaweed, or a ray of incoming sunlight

snags itself & bleeds brightness on the upturned point
of her scissors. This is how she steals back a different

something of herself from every item she produces:
her attention overflows the process she’s meant

to operate as if programmed, lends each stitch
a separate context, its own exception to the steely

law of sameness. Of course, we are dealing in abstracts
here, not practicality, talking coin she cannot spend,

segments of her life she won’t regain, resistance unable
to break the no-talk rule & visible only in her glancing

up for a second from her work & out of the window
to the rooftops where this poem is waiting to speak of her.

***

Instructions for a Scattering

Carry the cardboard box & its birthweight
of ashes to that clearing at the edge
of Whippendell Wood where my dog
ran springing head up through wave

after wave of bluebells that surged
from the leaf-rot with their faint fragrance,
their colour of heaven : & there release
my dust & cindered bone to the air.

If you need a story, imagine that any shred
of mind remaining in those fragments
will dissolve in rain & be taken up by rootlets,
lend its energy to the strategies for growth

written into bulb & bud: stretch it
a bit, & conjure a background hum –
a presence dialled down to a few becquerels
but still vibrating, just, in this location

where another hound is bound to leap,
delighting her young humans on a walk
some weekend, the dad calling out as mine did,
Oh watch the little beauty fly!


Steve Xerri was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2017 and has appeared in numerous print and online magazines including Clear Poetry, Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, One Hand Clapping, The Poetry Shed, Poetry Society Newsletter, and Ben Banyard’s blog. His first pamphlet Mutter/Land was published in 2020 by Oystercatcher Press.