Anna Crowe

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Pedro Serrano is one of Mexico's foremost poets. Peatlands contains poems from his volume Deplazamientos which is drawn from all his collections since 1986. Peatlands was published in 2014 by Arc in their Visible Poets series.


Pinned to the wire like clothes-pegs,
diminutive seagulls made of wood,
lithe and tiny in the brutal force of the blue,
motionless at noon, dropping one after another,
setting in motion clothes, arms, smiles,
with white breasts and black caps, streamlined
wings and in single file, with minimal fuss.
Until all have flown but one,
that perched for a moment and clung to its return,
as though to sketch the lightest of goodbyes,
with morning suddenly an armpit.
The wires remain, the sky never so empty,
like a village wedding on a Sunday,
then nothing.

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Feet clench, make themselves small, run away,
creasing their wretchedness and fear in lines
identical to those on our palms and different.
Feet are extensions of God
(which is why they are low down),
hence their distress, their rounded bulk, their lack of balance.
Feet are like startled crayfish.
Such vulnerable things, feet.
When they make love they clench and huddle together
as though they were their own subjects.
So feet are not made, then,
to cling, like wasps
to every pine-needle pin,
to every branch of the soul that makes them there.
They are more wings than feet,
tiny and fragile and human.
However much we overlook them.

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The moon’s watery knife
in this night, undeservedly.
It strikes silence between the patches of the trees,
dark cloaks, veins of lit lava.
Within, in one corner,
a withered clump of white, twisted
magnolias. Within, this outpouring of light,
outside, cables and fractured sounds and the birds.
The moon’s swing, sliver of moon, fingernail of silver.
I go out into this night to your body.
I raise the chalice of your flesh, I fall
on your welling shoulder, I open
your legs and the wet wings,
the sure tongue,
the squid, the vaginal water.
I reach my hands to your blue shoulder,
the haughty rump, I engrave
the journey over your body,
the kiss on the nape of your neck, I lift
the beloved mint of your thighs,
I crawl on all fours across your body, moon, I ride you,
I ride you,
damp manta-ray,
mantle of God,
and mountainous.
I mount you.

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Shitting is a pleasure, to bawl
along the feverish pipe and then abate
without the haste that might lead us to hatred.

Shitting is like the art of writing:
you have to give it thought and just so long
for everything to come out good and strong.

Sages declare—and they should know—
that no one ever thinks of suicide
on the heels of that precise infanticide

and that it scours and rids you of all blame
and leaves the spirit in an exalted
sphere of clemency, and cleansed of fault.

It’s also true, let’s face it, that just as some
are bound for heaven, some for the scrap-
heap, there are a thousand ways of having a crap:

from diarrhoea’s imminent distress
and fearful voiding of the bowels
or the hypocrite’s small goatish crottels

to the tight spot of the man who cannot bear
to part with anything so holds it in
because he feels life has a hold of him.

Perfection, when it comes to shitting, dwells
(if dwell it can in such a function that is
more ethereal the more noisome it is)

in coming prepared and leaving when you should
as though at a self-service, but of waste,
one, two, three, another effort— finished.

For getting stuck halfway is horrible:
the body resents it, coming out in goose-flesh,
trembles, falters, shivers, makes you gnash

your teeth, and in the body and soul of the offender
and in the body and soul of the offence
it’s a very bad sign to manage no more than an ounce.

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The Scribe

That man sits at the window.
Out there the countryside of his childhood shines,
a cradle song, some joke or other.
The evening is red and slow,
his memory is nothing but literary.
He watches himself see himself, go away, smile.
He thinks of a child whose eyes have been placed in a lighthouse,
while the mother makes him and polishes
intermittently, interminably
(a picturesque scene is usually an intimacy that is repeated).
Things become joined in toilsome couplings and painful twists.
He recognises there his old junk, his shadows,
the compliance of things and their solidarity,
their quiet toughness and their cunning,
and moves forward step by step as though it were foreseen,
as though so much rust should call together and name,
and thus inherit songs and feathers and biscuits and socks,
and usurp them and out of this pain that is already someone else’s,
crushed, that is already ancient history, fit it for
an endless reshuffling of opacities and sparkles,
blessed second-hand objects, tales made of glass, knick-knacks,
gold dust his pedlar’s trade.

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Locked in the slow circle of its actions
it uncoils blue and red and yellow,
damaged rings all gathered in a necklace,
güichi, güichi, the ground is scraping, hurting,
lodging grittily in the body’s slowness.
Creeping forward, güichi, güichi.
Barely a blade of grass it flusters,
making dust run on the level,
a line upon the horizontal.
It stays reared above splendid groundwork through an impulse in the neck,
through a continuing of a thousand coils advancing,
through a tightened and contractile effort.
At the same time too the tail’s tip,
whip-lash watchful,
tongue out flat like a dog, afraid of being trampled.
All that strength and anger chafe the ground beneath it,
going inwards,
flattening and tensing up for its prey.
Güichi, güichi.

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Regent’s Canal

The flat quack of a duck trembles in the water,
the filthy, rusty flow from a brick wall
that might once have been a factory:
       “manufacturers of paper,
       parcels, stationery boxes,
       postal tubes”.
What endures is the slow drip of rags,
the moon’s pale hoof,
the plants drooping out of all this neglect, the chimney-pots.
The silvery sky beats down on the steel wool of the water,
on the belly of the bridge, on this history of backyards.
A duck with a green neck does an about-turn,
disappears like a grey shadow.
The sky clears, flooding the spirit with light.

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Like leaves of wind surprised in a sudden gust
they peel away from the dense huddle,
one child, two, then several, more,
they take flight and ruffle up the street,
blown towards each other, impelled into merging,
unravelling the group they were in,
seeking it out again, finding their place.
A magnet drives them apart and tugs them back,
it scatters them first towards the street,
then brings them together once more. It’s very strange
the way they fill out, make themselves be.
As though they don’t know who they are unless pursued.
They chase each other, touching, colliding.
There’s no giving way, except in a challenge
that blocks them one by one.
There are two or three who have already crossed over,
two or three more who are starting to break away,
until, as if the motive were spreading,
the curl escapes, flies free, tucks itself in,
and they cross the street en masse. A breath
of air lingers, a gentleness that rocks,
that wraps itself round the stragglers, making them
see that they’re not there, they’re not there yet, that the group
is on the other side. All
as natural as a kindly wind,
without violence, like a pattern,
a compact group once more
finally, after motion, calm and still.

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Anna Crowe
May 2014
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