This is a poem from Tender to the Queen of Spain which is my most recent book, called 'In Praise of Vodka'.
In praise of vodka
The taste they say for they must
or they feel that they must so they say
so they say they say it has none
there’s no taste, just water.
Water: the glassy lake Christ trod,
a bowl Herod rinsed his fingers in,
the rain falling on Troy’s ruins,
last word last balm of the living.
The same water, over and over. They say
for they say for they must so they say
we’re running out running dry but there’s always
the same amount as there’s always been.
It’s we who are more. As for myself
I’ve spent all my days working out
just what little Miss Peaches might like
and I’m due a day off for the rest of my life.
So out of the freezer the bottle, the green
frosty bottle, its label iced in cyrillic,
the glass and the water beside the glass.
Russische. Moskovskaya. Stolichnaya.
So this is the taste of nothing:
nothing then nothing again. Nothing at all.
The taste of the air, of wind on the fields,
the wind through the long wet forest.
A stream and the rain. I lie in my yard
and open my mouth to the moon and the down falling rain
and the rods of its words speak over my tougue
to the back of my throat and they say
Vodka of course being the diminutive of ‘water’, ‘voda’ – a little water.
from Shed: Poems 1980-2001 (Bloodaxe, 2001), copyright © Ken Smith 2001, by permission of Bloodaxe Books. Recording from the Poetry Quartets Bloodaxe/British Council 1998-2000, used by permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd and the British Council