Tag Archives: workshop poems

Karen Silkwood

This came from a workshop I took part in inspired by “underdogs” and people who might epitomise the “David v. Goliath” experience. I wasn’t fully done with it on the day, and finished it tonight and I’ve just sent it on for publication in our collection on the theme.

Karen Silkwood (Wikipedia page) was a technician at a nuclear power plant who was outspoken about health and safety standards where she worked and was heavily involved in union activity and activism. She was found to have plutonium contamination on her person and in her home and died in unclear circumstances in a car crash, when she was on her way to meet a journalist.

Karen Silkwood
by Peter Buckley

“Thinkin’ about what a friend had said,
I was hoping it was a lie”

– Neil Young, After The Gold Rush (1970)

 

I have a weapons-grade rage that started with suspicion.
I waited as time, and time again,
delivered confirmation,
believing at almost every turn
the essential Good in people
which we should fix when it disappoints,
like a routine inspection.

The relative Good of nuclear power,
when it puts food on the table,
a split apple, cheese on Rye bread.

The by-product is isolated alone and is,
like I am, safe as a collision.

I’m still driving off of
the straightest forever, road.

We met in Union,
we were tired but sensed blood, and
I carried a document
from the café where we planned.
You held an expression for a full two minutes
I could’ve kept as an alarm.

In the last steps to my car, mushroom-cloud where
the country radio – wouldn’t turn on –
was melancholy with betrayal and a noted Pastor
spoke about soluble plutonium, and
Jesus, if accepted, is the reactor shielding
who will stand taller than your playground bully,
elected or in place of power.

I dreamt of removing shelves from my refrigerator,
a hat that cast a shadow and had a grimace and a beard,
the man who had all his reasons for doing what he did,
weed-smoke and the static ‘lectricity that came off in my hand like a handle,
Sievert dosages ladled like a stew of Chernobyl,

offered by the glowing sun
like rainwater from a shower head.

And there were patterns, planned accidents,
like thick, red-green, woven strings behind my eyes;
Two baseball-white things knocked out of the park
got old and started shutting
then I nodded as if agreeing,
irresistibly towards the sedation’s pull,
up there and further away toward it,
a Better America,
with a view of
Longview, Texas.

I dosed in drowsiness
remembering you had a punchline,
and the Martin Luther Kings or JFKs,
most of all my family
who I love and who it tears me up to think of,
would fight my corner, on a round Earth
when the soil was new
and made for our children.

You best be as sad as sorry,
sorry, and raging, and
I hope you do your bit,
that’s all.

The Milky Way

“Erasure Poem” composed entirely of words from
Popular Science Monthly Volume 26 January 1885

Image: SnEptUne-Mountain-in-Ink-300px

 

The neighbourhood,
completely neutralised,
the darkening of sky.

Seductive, revolutionary.
Walking with footsteps along paths.

The nature of bodies, their movements;
such different objects,
novel modes of investigation,
centring of circles
printed in photographic cameras.

Ingenuity anticipating
atmospheric transit,
carrying upwards into finer air.
Light and heat.

Its pursuit is far too arduous to be conducted
with less than a man’s whole energies.

Day-like

Today in Bradgate Writers, lead by Lydia Towsey, our jumping off point was reading the poem “Today” by Frank O’Hara. Having never encountered the poem before, I fell in love with it instantly.

We wrote our poem based on words which happened to arise from discussion, but which, of course, we made our own in our poetry. It was very natural and organic, quick and free as a moment of writing, after a sleepless night (the unusually hot weather we’re having in England, where we’re more used to summers that aren’t summers.)

Day-like

Marry, marry, to celebrate joining up,
once, twice, again 
with oneself,

pillow, kiwi bird, kiwi fruit,
in which case, vegetarian
in New Zealand.

Air traffic, the thing with birds is –

downy feathers
smoothed over.

The accidental pottery owls I’d collect,
each momentarily
proud amateur potter.

Interrail, because Interrail.

Draw a way out, far out…
Man, if you’re the paper not the pencil,

go abroad.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

A book from 1978,
unchosen on eBay,
“Your Own Adventure”.

Time for any
unemployed spring-cleaning,
in the midwinter
experiment of my place.

Charge into battle,
make change.

Invest yet more hope
where hands quake,
to flicker dust off pages,
alight on irrelevant words.

With big tears to escape,
the drawbridge sunk,
the timely scream
hollowing a tower.

More than ever,
something needs
to hire my senses.

Opt for your own indecision;
after the last book,
you’re dead uncertain,
well done.

Choose other titles
in the series.

I thought I had something
to bring to market.
A slim mouse spat on
for the roast.
We buy £1 raffle tickets for
the broken inner
of internship
crystal ball.

With BAs, MAs can we use a computer?
Can young artists work for nothing
when the path to the webbed Arena
is littered with past names?

Brown leaves were pressed into concrete soles
of toe-crushing smart shoes.

The CV
requires imagination
to resume.

Not everyone enjoys long penpal exchanges to Canada
about inexplicable gulfs of time.

Unsure has served me well here.
years of good,
crippling unsure.
I’m glad it’s not inspiration
for a poster.

I must be better at it
than those moved to swift action,
quick decision,
jumped guns.

I took the ends of every strand
of adventure,
balled them up in my throat-song,
chose and faked my own.

I don’t know why I ever bought
this book.