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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Security; History Museum; Neighbourhood Watch

By: E. C. Mason


How do you say one more in a foreign language? Just one more.

Collecting numbers in a sound I don’t understand. How do you even

be so strictly now if you’re in the waiting room all day, sitting

at reception. I work first at the bakery, blunt knives pressing rounded

heads into warm foam, hanging pickle on the upper side of cheddar

sandwiches, then I’m at the retirement home. I’m called “security” but

no one ever comes, no one who sits upright ever goes. They look at this

unpainted corner of the city’s damp periphery, they look for years,

and I keep them safe here. Then I carry home, pilgrims stamping the collapse

of rainfall on the dewy lengths of my trouserlegs, and on theirs.

We share the footfall in our evening, slightly. I get home and I pour

you liquids, ferment the slow machine that turns us round

to morning. Wake up, blindless light gaping open the pedestal, overarching.

                            And I touch you a final time, one more, just one more,

                            before you leave

                            me silenced, back in line, the waiting, work, and so on

History Museum

The house is almost neat

In its uniform of ruin.

A torn picture of the king and queen

Sloping in a coil from the wardrobe,

Iceberg blotches, hanging shreds of ceiling.

Did an auntie use

To mix genes here? An organ

Breathes and pine breathes and long

Wet coats hold away the coming

Future. Move into cities. The frosted

Steel stairs are peering into tenements.

An hour’s work will buy you

about a litre of beer.

Somewhere in the woods I find myself

Watching the collapse, arms up,

Surrendering any idea of the future

To the evidence of my own reproducibility.

The house can be made again, the constant

Sound of snowy pine, creaking steps.

I can be made again. A new name, stem change.

If a house burnt in the brown forest,

If there was a fire, unlovely

As my humid body. If there was

A place where this used to be.

Neighbourhood Watch

The question with the gardeners was whether

to pay them a normal wage – or however normal

was defined by the investors – and have them rent

a house in the estate, or whether to give them

a free house and have them work for free, collecting

the bins, sweeping up leaves. We all said

they should get a house. They’ve been paying rent

for years, working on the estate after mopping floors

in a school, which is what they did for money before

retiring. No one had invited the gardeners, so we

couldn’t ask them. They didn’t speak much English,

or no one had heard them try. One of the investors,

who no one had ever seen before, who lived

very far away from this estate, said that a house here

is worth hundreds of thousands now, while a wage

until they die will be a tenth of that, maximum. A little

wage for gardening it was. They started folding chairs

and our uncle the taxi driver carried the investors away.

In the sunshine, I walked to Lexy’s grave, the finest

local prostitute, as she called herself.

Three days before she died, she was silent 

for an hour, me smoking cigarettes at the bedside.

And then she spoke. She confessed that this

had all been agony. Being born was agony, living

was total agony, unquestionably. And dying

was the same agony again. The gardeners

had planted chrysanthemums around the stone.


E. C. Mason is a poet, playwright and PhD candidate, researching race theory in contemporary poetry. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, and he has translated the works of A. K. Blakemore, Rachael Allen and Sara Torres between English/Spanish. His plays have been on at many theatres, and his latest political comedy is ‘Everything Today is the Same’


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