"Open Thou Our Lips": a poem by Michael Symmons Roberts

Because there is a word we must not say,
of course we hear it everywhere.

The dog left in a cold yard sings it.
Unanswered phones in locked houses

are desperate to utter it, newsreaders
with currency updates breathe it

between yen and dollar. Like many so
afflicted I pace the bare boards

of my room and listen to the voice
inside my skull intone it as a litany.

A bit of me is tempted to come out with it,
since none would hear and it would be

a weight off my tongue, but when I open
my window the world rushes in:

moon-lust, elm-smoke, sirens, everything.

Michael Symmons Roberts recently won the Forward Prize for Poetry for his collection “Drysalter” (Jonathan Cape, £12), from which this poem is taken

This article first appeared in the 11 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Iran vs Israel

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“Minoan pendant”: a new poem by Mark Granier

“Yes – I press my nose / to the pleasantly warm glass – / it’s a copy of one I saw / cased in the cool museum”

Yes – I press my nose
to the pleasantly warm glass –
it’s a copy of one I saw
cased in the cool museum –
gold beaten to honey, a grainy
oval dollop, flanked by two
slim symmetrical bees –

garland for a civilisation’s
rise and collapse, eye-dropped
five thousand years: a flash
of evening sun on a windscreen
or wing mirror – Heraklion’s
scooter-life buzzing and humming –

as I step in to browse, become
mesmerised by the warm
dark eyes of the woman
who gives her spiel and moves
softly and with such grace,
that, after leaving, I hesitate

a moment on the pavement
then re-enter with a question
I know not to ask, but ask
anyway, to hear her voice
soften even more as she smiles
and shakes her hair – no.

Mark Granier is an Irish poet and photographer. He is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Haunt (Salmon).

This article first appeared in the 16 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Britain on the brink