Caravaggio after the death of Ranuccio Tomassoni

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

A reward for the head of the killer!
The head we can’t see in the black
of the scene. The perfectly honest expression
which is not our focus.

Michelangelo Merisi,
of Porto Ecole, formerly of Malta and Naples
and Rome, and Caravaggio,
has black hair lit by the yellow-white fingers
he thrusts his head at.

But that’s all we can see. Black hair,
black suit, crumpled and dirtied
like nails holding rotten fruits.

A dagger and sword, unlicensed
but blessed by a friend of a friend of a patron.
He runs from a tennis court.

‘Humility conquers pride’
says the sword on the still-moving
right leg. The leg is a master’s but it’s black,
never draped in red cloth like his perfectly human
dying virgin.

The most famous painter in Rome, and a good
duellist, flees the sordid scene at night, the streetlamp
bathing the fallen man and the hot spit still on his body.
The spit still on the monster’s lips
is invisible, for now.

A reward for the hero who slays this sinner
and takes him from this dark world into paradise.

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God’s Wife

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

I was God’s wife. Not the pillar of salt. God’s.
Our Heaven was good, just didn’t last very long.
He spent all his time in His Garden,
didn’t talk to me much after the wedding.
Then He made another woman, brown and beige,
really little, but in my own image,
but little. He waved unknowable fruit at her, teasing.
‘Nooo, you can’t have this one. This one’s for meee.’
I hear He has a train set now
or something, and He flooded the little people? I dunno.
It’s possible He even killed their first born.
I hear He has their witches stoned?
And He fathered a kid with another of the beggars
or something. I didn’t look back.

Isn’t This Worth Fighting For? ENLIST NOW

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

We fight for Bayer Heroin,
unsubtle assassins with knives tied to rifles.
For duty.
We fight for King and Kaiser,
for homes and lovers, real or imagined,
for sweet milky Weetabix warmed in a tin
and brothers, alliances we’ve steeled between us
for good.
We fight for the Internet access
the minister promised to keep us connected,
to keep us alive and listening to Lily Allen
here, where even Geri Halliwell now fears to tread.
Sometimes we just like it. Drumbeats tied to violence.
We fight.
Circumstance, conquest, convictions,
feathers or leaders, posters or sons.
For Hannah or London
or some other capital
we care for.

Henri Rousseau’s Safari Park

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

We visited Henri Rousseau’s safari park when the wars
were done. The place was overgrown, left
in such a hurry.

The leaves we could see in that little clearing were choking,
splattered into wet root husks and mud,
turning deep and greasy as they bent into heaps,
churning the rain into thick, dark colour.

No animals were still in sight but the really frightened ones
with the biggest teeth.

The branches were thinner there, beyond that sole glass
window that stood there, constrained to its case
but rattling in the winds,
where the ticket office had been.

The park must have been beautiful in the moment,
when the bombs were cracking the city around it,
after the gift shop and before the peace time.

When we finally arrived, it was too late.
The zookeeper had moved on, left this stark storm behind him.
Europe was safe for one more generation.
We got in our car, wiped our glasses and left.

The Wasp on the Window

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

he beats flaps of film,
no more than shed flakes of skin to Him,
more advanced,
He who wonders at his easy flight
and brushes breadcrumbs from fat lips.

He backs away,
as if that tiny blunted point of abdomen
could wound
this other, with eyes larger than his being,
eyes in subtle, soft, insidious colours.

The bastard takes mysteries for granted, guttering
loud, slow nonsense over sputtering.
Helpless scrabbling on invisible surface,
reflective, while he watches perfect.
he waits

and watches the fuck,
legs moving like tools to prime,
mechanical
lifts to lift him away
if He tries to crush his fragile shell.

If He tries then weak venom strikes, spikes,
spills his mind and fills his pike.
he moves in faster planes, HE flies!
He cannot fly! HE can fly, HE will FLY!
HE’LL kill!

A move is made and he backs back a bit
to the strange safety of confounding surface, flits
into air
unsweetened by jam and sweat and mammal.
he escapes, transgressing transfixing panel.

Tomorrow it will play out again.
He dares to take his air
and offer His sandwich.
Tomorrow HE’LL win!
He’s more scared of him than he is of HIM.

To the good-looking girl on the train, drinking Gordon’s and singing along to Edith Piaf

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

No? You honestly have no regrets?
No, I guess you’d have no use for them.
You look near-perfect to me, well except
for maybe your singing, and even then
you do it stylishly. Everything paid
and sipped from tiny bottles, like your gin.
Yesterday’s losses loudly swept away,
your fleeting doubts banished with ‘no’ again.

I wish I felt the same about regrets.
I wish I’d stopped the trolley-bloke, just now,
and a had a drink myself, to just forget
like you with your rien. Perfect and proud.
But next time, love, I shan’t just let him go
with such a simple, sorry answer, ‘No’.