Thursday 11 February 2021

Five Poems by Grant Tarbard



The orchestra wore unease

in their buttonholes—

all scores evaporated

into a taunting series

of murderer’s postcards.

By lifting his arms, the conductor

activated a system of levers

driven by gravity,

lilting semantic tones

convex the inert concert hall

with a cessation of music,

silent as a hovering minister.

Too Think We’ll Be Privileged to See the End of the World


and who was Christ to forgive

Mary Magdalene for her sins?


Life itself was given for nothing

owing to the measure of a woman,

for there is truth in flesh.

Belly magic has gristle,

a jelly you can serve with tea.

Light and fire are themselves different

but tangible as the last.

Head magic, a chauvinistic image

of the divine that makes women

a background weeper,

awkwardly manoeuvring

to cosset the gnostic.


Matter has substance, time a direction.

Thus, head magic has been judiciously

revised as gargoyle. Now, the Pope

is a drunk on a bench at the fountain

at Trevi, begging for psalms.

We are all agnostic, except the dead,

who are boxed in a cankerous lullaby.

Visit Your Blessings When You Exit Through the Gift Shop

on Gristhorpe Man

I was the first of my family to attain the title of artefact.

I am not there, in the glass case you’ve fashioned for me,

I’m in the box you pulled me from, perfumed with a firefly

of my family. I inhabit so many silences, unspecific to gravity’s

dense barbed wire pull. These onlookers never perceive

I am a seed, a core of the brilliance of the dead. It’s stifling

in here, groaning with iron tongued bad breath. My tongue

used to be an eel between my lover’s thighs, shushing her

invisible. This translation of my face is a dry stretch sighed

across a used mandible. Yes, age devoured me, gone before

the waltz of wind-up tanks. I’ve grown to be an old conker,

soaked in vinegar and baked to make my bones a world beater.

I was one with the membership of the earth, burial is a farce,

but please visit your blessings when you exit through the gift shop.

Three Birthdays


A bruise is my birthday present, stopping bleeding

early is my wish as I blow out handcuffed candles

of the dizzy white light cake. My doctor knitted

me a closed fist jumper— needle and thimble stitch

absence to my blood, fragmentary clean through

the churning machine of my body gone soft, rotten

peach, marbled pink with plastic flashes conjoined

to the salt flats of my flesh, a shrunken black out

searching for an agnate grace, a captive reading

birthday honours on dialysis. I am destroyed with

nothing to measure my progress except downward

acceleration and nurses drawing cakes in the dust.


A victory is my birthday present, 1-nil to the Arsenal,

more sweet as it’s against West Ham, my father-in-law’s

team. Ah, but that was the shiver of the day before, in

between the press of the yielding weight of impending

countdown of boot black age, crushing skull age, shrill

of trapped animals within. I’m now just a channel hopper.

My birthday can be told in emojis, so simple as to be sung

in a vague, dry laugh. At least it was just before stasis,

that Covid abyss, the unmovement of people, free as caged

canaries, trading silhouettes of lovers’ past for abstract

friending on Facebook. Take away for dinner in a blue skim

of dusk, the dead were not yet dead and I had chocolate cake.


Now I must come to 51. I hope the talons of earth aren’t dug

into my flesh, the portrait of artist as a dead pig gone down

to whatever mortal sin is most in vogue. My gravestone is

born in my umbilical navel, a monument to a silent, closed

door. Let’s not dwell on the tar and feather of ageless death.

But something has shifted, a candle mass of birthday cake

that death squats on, rubbing his didactic hands with glee.

I hope I don’t have that many books unread and I’m a better

poet, threading smoke across the confessional skyline. I hope

I’m thinner and the smudge of icing doesn’t grace of finger.

The future is a blank canvas, being painted slowly with each

action we make. Happy 51st birthday Grant, I hope it’s a good one.


A species silenced.

We are all bystanders now,

the spring sun tempts us.

Grant Tarbard lives in Basildon, Essex, home of Depeche Mode. He likes to think he’s atheist. He is the author of ‘Rosary of Ghosts’ (Indigo Drams) & a new collection, ‘dog’ (Gatehouse Press) will be out whenever there’s a break in plagues. 

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