Three Poems — Alexander Booth

From Roman Hours


Dust in hand in sun
The shadows said you should not
Or visit only
                          now & again
But how resist this land, its rust-

Hued rests of ruin, red paper
Wisps of poppy       The present here
     Is always past, a chiaro-
Scuro flicker      distant branches

        Down through the layers
Below the basilica, in the green dark
             A sound of water

The most natural thing
      I turned       you were not yet gone

From ‘Scheggia’, (The Little Light that Escaped)

The story begins like this. No. It does not. There is no story. Or, they shoveled a load of speed and shuddered toward the coast. Saltpans. Sparse groupings of pine. Dust. A bar at the side of the road. A woman beneath a tattered palm of tarpaulin, cigarette and sunburnt fingers. Vegetables, assorted fruit in plastic buckets. Flies.

He sat with the body for almost ten hours, watching the face almost imperceptibly flush back out. Day just breaking. Birds. The faint moan of trains. A small stain of wax on the wall.

So, this is death, he thought.

Late light in a just-turned summer streamed through the high canopy, just off the beach. The way the rocks went into the water. The way you could just fall off the side of the world.

You are not free.


In the morning the gold crumpled mylar sea                                     horizonless


What seest thou else in the dark backward and abyss of time?

Over one thousand views of the moon. Obsession. A wall-and-mirror
A desk. A backpack. A rug.

As if you might sneak out the window of your life, was it? Or call back up?

And again under evening’s skinned-knee sky, flakes of light falling through all the in-betweens. The blue-hued whorls of the heart. Quiet again, the late day’s light mostly unseen from where he sits, brick once again halved into bright and dark, far sky paling out. Too many. And no talismans left. Auguries gone. But bells again. And blue. Another day fading. Where did they all go so soon? Inner courtyard blank. Windows blank. A light goes on in the stairwell but no one moves. A collection of postcards on a windowsill. Here is a border. Beyond this point. Countries disappearing. Exile’s bottle of despair. Blake’s death mask by Bacon. Dutch still-life. A room of wax. A river. Expulsion. A collection of snapshots to the side.

Coming back across a border the inner border what is an inner border he had no idea and from where it was he came little either now.

The jacket your father gave you no longer fits.

Around the corner there, the lights would of course be on, as would the gloom, the dark neon of neverending night.

A distant story, but recurrent. It would be one of escape.


And names in dust on windowframes


A pale evening as thin as cigarette paper over a back courtyard. Stairwell
of stilltime where a note on the ground said

           How can the door to hell look so much like home

Drugs the same, as was the drift, the drink, the darkrooms, all the undefined millennial unease and isolation

White buildings, grey buildings; trails

                                                 spinning out into the peripheries


( “riz…semoule…” )

starling-sleeved they came, gliding
                                                  across the cold concrete of the new (the now

in a spent yellow wake of sodium

                      this long slow path to anywhere else

                      Another imploded factory
                      Another rusted pedestrian bridge


A story of cities. Of rooms. Of architecture and its opposite. Of twilight. Of being devoured. Of devouring. The figure stopped to look west, beyond the last buildings, the thinned-out treeline, avenue dwindling, pavement brittle, sky brittle, and further on into the backward: Amber. Apricot. Bone. Clay. Coral. Fire. Umber. Flame. Then the darker scene. Out on the plain, the indifferent clouds right before the cheek’s dull shatter muffled as the blow – –

Later, blackdraped groups winding their way through a sooted and muddy wail of land.


From Insulae


There was only one room, and a kitchen. You slept in a space behind the door to the latter, over a kind of sleeping bag on the floor. There were no cushions. But there was a window. It looks onto a courtyard, three other walls, a birch. In one corner there’s a lamp. A ficus tree, losing its leaves. Ingrain wallpaper. All that was yours a branch of quince and some cards of Kollwitz: ‘Pair of Lovers’, ‘A Weavers’ Revolt’. A suitcase, some music, a few books. The nights you didn’t work (which was most of them) what did you do? And what about the days? Eyes into the bristling cold, ear to hard light, you listened, whispered, felt storylines start to fray.

Alexander Booth is poet and translator, who lives in Berlin. He published Triptych earlier this year. It is available from his website.
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