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  1. Culture
  2. Poetry
15 June 2016

“How To Vote If You Are A Flat Cloud”: a poem by Patrick Mackie

By Patrick Mackie

Europe is being painted once again by Giorgio de
Chirico, he knows enough for one thing to ignore
the hubbub, or to place it all in the distance like a train
whirling on pale and awkward tracks,
the scene is dry and still and weird
and awkwardly grand,
the public sphere is empty and open and tender,
listen, you cannot even hear the flat clouds explain
their thesis that democracy requires
a certain taste for boredom,
amongst other things,
an aptitude for making shapes out of blank
spaces, the way colonnades can both create and enclose
their own hard black shadows,
a virtuosity capable of exercising itself
on the very strictness of emptiness,
as a world war looms a few hundred nights ahead,
or does not;
the statue has no head because you are its head instead
as you watch, the colonnades will not stop waiting,
those bananas on the ground may look silly but they are also 
               sublimely selfless.

Patrick Mackie’s first collection, Excerpts from the Memoirs of a Fool, was published by Carcanet in 2001. His latest book, The Further Adventures of the Lives of the Saints , is newly published by CB Editions.

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This article appears in the 07 Jun 2016 issue of the New Statesman, A special issue on Britain in Europe

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