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Sport 19: Lightworks

Damien Wilkins — Dirt: four poems

page 166

Damien Wilkins

Dirt: four poems


I took my pen
on a working holiday.

It saw interesting though
partial things
through its long window.

At night I held it
in my hand. We dreamed

of home. Goodbye,

goodbye—I shook
hands with the Dean

of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

He wore a dirty tie—a girl
pushing herself together—

something we made up
to climb out

our smeary window.
page 167

The Blackstone

I don't clean up. I encourage
to come and live with me
in the Blackstone.

Food lies on the floor. I don't mean
it advances. These are little piles:
parmesan cheese, a nut, a rubber

Someone writes
on the quiet time notice: And NO guitar
it made my cat cry.

I can't cry in the apartment though
I heard the guitar.
I have to be in the office, people laughing
in the corridor, not walking
across my ceiling
things. Yelling

I still wash my clothes. Down in the laundry
a table
where we put items
we don't want. Novels, a cap,

pennies. The Japanese girls
leave indecipherable
and teddy-bears. A shoe, a kettle.

page 168

A tall man in his late
thirties puts his head around
the door. He's wearing a tiny

He looks terrible. It's the afternoon.
He takes a teddy-bear.

The hair on his—the man's—
is brushed
the wrong way.


I take the almonds
to the pregnant raccoon.
In my bad pajamas.

I spill the almonds
under the tree.
It's 2 a.m. The band is still
ringing in my ears.

A guy is going through the dumpster.
I feel stupid
defiant. He looks
at the almonds.

You should be with me.
If we look up at the pregnant raccoon
together, I think.

page 169

A raccoon could kill a cat.
I keep the cats inside
all the time. The cat litter goes

in the dumpster. The guy says, Raccoon dreams
a being a squirrel squirrel dreams a being
an ant ant dreams a being pajamas
on a woman's
ha ha

With the ringing in my ears I imagine
this could be a song
the band played. They were my kind of band. The men,
the two women—one of whom

looked like she wouldn't even know
what a band was.
On violin.


Before we had our own
child, I had a fantasy;
adopt or just bring these two—
brother and sister—into our home.

Because of the way the father walked
ten feet in front of them, yelling
abuse. What sweet
kids—maybe six and five.

page 170

On Wednesdays, weekends. Expose them
to warmth, inquiry, baking, TV. Tell us
the word for bread how
your grandmother says it.

The brother is now nine or ten. Puts
something in his hair. I've got to tell him:
Stop throwing rocks over the roofs
of the parked cars. You can see the marks

in his hair from the comb. How many times
do I have to tell him! This is property,
people walk by. Next day he's back
on the dirt-pile our neighbour dropped

from digging out his new bedroom.
The boy's not throwing in that direction though.

The gay man I'm eating with doesn't have any
patience for the crying child. The mother has him
by the door, ready to leave, though she doesn't want
to go. She wants to eat her dinner.

Do I take this as an unlikeable thing about all
gay men? But then there's the man at the next
table, in his sixties—difficult to imagine him
in bed with another man—who, raising

his voice, says he would have been knocked
from here to kingdom come. ‘I'd be dead
by now.’

page 171

Our neighbour hasn't put curtains in his new bedroom. Sometimes at night, when I'm taking the recycling down, or carrying a tool up from the basement, sometimes I might just want to be out of the house for a moment—everyone steps into the night, don't say it's just men hiding from the mothers of their children screaming in their baths, soap in their eyes—I see his girlfriend laying out her clothes for the next day's work on their bed. It's very exciting. Her—what is it—thoughtfulness? The composing—the blouse, the skirt. She is already wearing her white dressing-gown. Once she told us, when our child was about to be born, she couldn't imagine something growing inside her. ‘I'd feel too full.’

My father smacked us. I remember curling under
a shrub and crying. He lies down on the floor
and our daughter tells him she wants to look in his
mouth. ‘It's all right,’ she says, ‘You've been a good
girl.’ He cries out because she's kneeling on his chest.

When he knows she's coming to visit, he shaves.
He combs his hair! His combs were always
dirty—who would clean a comb? He used to chase
my sister around the dining-table, the noise
so great you could shout with joy

and not be heard.