Jal Nicholl’s poetry has appeared in Retort Magazine, Stylus Poetry, Famous Reporter, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The Diagram and Shampoo Poetry.
Conjecture what his studies were that year:
to ride a pony led by the harness
was far the largest part of his tuition.
Conjecture how he gathered in
the blackberry harvest; through what conceit
sucking, as he went, the juice of recognition.
Conjecture it was a rented domain¾
weevils in the grain-chute, dry vats in the dairy;
still, rule at that time was by divine commission.
On the Demolition of an Inner-City Housing-Estate
A discontinued pylon waves
Steel tendons that anneal
A stump that won’t let go the earth.
And, strange to say, that steel
Calls to my mind the tentacles
An invertebrate puts forth—
And thus, seemingly, on the sea
To again submerge the earth.
And the fact is there’s little here
But suffers a sea-change,
And turns to something rich—though far
From positively strange.
Ah! No more arguments by night
Over bail or heroin:
Pigeons and poverty alike
Have left on tattered wing.
And I will put my things away
As well, and throw away
All that I can of my life till now,
And set up house and stay
Where car-lots, fast-food and store-outlets
Are unevenly strewn
In clumps, like ethnic diasporas.
I’ll learn to live alone—
But still remain dissatisfied
As with a kiss on the cheek,
With the only answer you could give
To one who, for the sake
Of more than you acknowledge asks
Again: is my worth greater
Than my wages, the same, or less?
That you were of the latter
View then was clear, although you claimed
No answer could be found
To a question that—could I not see?
Was patently unsound.
Evening Piece (After Houellebecq)
Outside the shopping centre
A crowd is on the boil;
A crippled pigeon doesn’t ask
Whose tyger, or why so cruel,
But seeks the gutter; while, nearby,
A beggar holds his sign, and bears
The foreign students’ chatter
As saints submit to jeers.
I make my way down Swanston St.,
Passing electric signs
That point pseudo-erotically
Down stairs and back-lanes.
Oh, hi, It’s Adeline;
I make my excuse, and hear catcalls
Directed at a Doric-skirted
Pair of school-age girls.
The economy flourishes;
I try to breathe—my chest grows tighter;
And you will not appear.
I still love you, Rita.