Dark Looks

Who anyone is or I am is nothing to the work. The writer
properly should be the last person that the reader or the listener need think about
yet the poet with her signature stands up trembling, grateful, mortally
and especially embarrassing to herself, patting her hair and twittering If, if only
I need not have a physical appearance! To be sheer air, and mousseline!
and as she frets the minute wars scorch on through paranoias of the unreviewed
herded against a cold that drives us in together – then pat me more, Coventry
to fall from Anglo-Catholic clouds of drifting we‘s high tones of feeling down
to microscopic horror scans of tiny shiny surfaces rammed up against the nose
cascading on Niagara, bobbed and jostled, racing rusted cans of Joseph Cotten
charmed with his decent gleam: once we as incense-shrouded ectoplasm gets
fresh drenched and scattered units pull on gloss coats to preen in their own
still it’s not right to flare and quiver at some fictive ‘worldly boredom of the young’
through middle-aged hormonal pride of Madame, one must bleed, it’s necessary…
Mop mop georgette. The only point of holding up my blood is if you’d think So
We’ve all got some of that: since then you’d each feel better; less apart. – Hardly:
it’s more for me to know that I have got some, like a textbook sexual anxiety
while the social-worker poet in me would like her revenge for having been born
and left.
What forces the lyric person to put itself on trial though it must stay rigorously
Does it count on its dullness to seem human and strongly lovable; a veil for the
which likes to feel itself helpless and touching at times? Or else it backs off to get
since arch isn’t far from desperate: So take me or leave me. No, wait, I didn’t
mean leave
me, wait, just don’t – or don’t flick and skim to the foot of a page and then get up
to go –

from Selected Poems (Picador, 2019), © Denise Riley 2000, 2019, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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