This poem contains phrases from two sources. The first is a 1950s Italian-English phrasebook, though the language doesn't matter, I just found the chaotic world of the phrasebook very attractive and I recognised it - 'I am lost', 'where is my passport?', 'please take me to the hospital' - everything is always going wrong in the phrasebook. The other phrases are from the technology of warfare.
I’m standing here inside my skin,
which will do for a Human Remains Pouch
for the moment. Look down there (up here).
Quickly. Slowly. This is my front room
where I’m lost in the action, live from a war,
on screen. I am Englishwoman. I don’t understand you.
What’s the matter? You are right. You are wrong.
Things are going well (badly). Am I disturbing you?
TV is showing bliss as taught to pilots:
Blend, Low silhouette, Irregular shape, Small,
Secluded. (Please write it down. Please speak slowly.)
Bliss is how it was in this very room
when I raised my body to his mouth,
when he even balanced me in the air,
or at least I thought so and yes the pilots say
yes they have caught it through the Side-Looking
Airbone Radar, and through the J-Stars.
I am expecting a gentleman (a young gentleman,
two gentlemen, some gentlemen). Please send him
(them) up at once. This is really beautiful.
Yes they have seen us, the pilots in the Kill Box
on their screens and played the routine for
getting us Stealthed, that is, Cleaned, to you and me,
Taken Out. They know how to move into a single room
like that, to send in with Pinpoint Accuracy, a hundred Harms.
I have two cases and a cardboard box. There is another
bag there. I cannot open my case – look out,
the lock is broken. Have I done enough?
Bliss the pilots say is for evasion
and escape. What’s love in all this debris?
Just one person pounding another into dust,
into dust. I do not know the word for it yet.
Where is the British Consulate? Please explain.
What does it mean? What must I do? Where
can I find? What have I done? I have done
nothing. Let me pass please. I am an Englishwoman.
from Her Book (Faber & Faber, 2006), © Jo Shapcott 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher