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13 silkin Jon Silkin from "Autobiographical Stanzas": three poems "no man ever treated of a subject that he knew and understood better than I do . . .in this I am the most learned man alive." — Montaigne For a Man's Head 1 Leaving his eating-house refreshed, my father carries the flimsy cash, most likely in his inside pocket, buttoned to admit his fingers. It is for a man's head crayoned by fumes, a page of shapes on the foundry wall. And will the head come with me, and will it concentrate a nation's charity? The animalizers, benched in an eating-house stare at the faces outside pressed to glass whose grins are sickles. "No," my father says, "that is not hatred." Must I love these forms? How shall I find my best way in the mind this jittering world changes constantly? The self is from its being taken out. 14 the minnesota review << We were evacuated in the war" "sinking below the level of himself to mark the insides of his head, like glass" 1 We were evacuated in the war not working with language, a dull shrift of possibilities, and sprinkled our piss-pans with fool's gold. By us, two mines rusted with gold, quartz churches the Romans split — setuagints enriching in small heavy handfuls. A queen's ring opened a new mine, fifty feet under unpumped glistening, a watery shaft the eye retrieves. Invisibly air folds in branches, delicate mainspring about the sun, a sprocket that flicks up dew at the flower's lip, misting dull gradual curves of pasture. Like sweat, itching drops barb this flesh. I'd stop the Welshman inspecting our fool's gold — Judah's pyrites — grained by fanged sawing. If I crush and pan valueless sediment, smelt fool's gold, pawn it and run off, I'd still saunter in haphazard grass, bulbous blackberries, swollen multi-eyed spit; even the house dishevelled, I want; cursed, it is said, to frizzle; on its flags, blood speckles in polish, where a master got knifed balking a servant's marriage. For true gold, authentic nature in dishevellment, the hand abuses quartz to extract fingers of gold, modest and noble, splitting a Jew in Christian doubleness. Shy looks of England rust in the fool's gold. So in dishevellment nature forms gold neither as brutish as the other is. 15 silkin I sniff gas, carbide watered to light a dim house where I am clean in a fee-paying school a pure scholarly, a large-kneed boy whose brain squats, in it a carbuncle, adamant; not kind, bullied as bullying; a Jew paying for to be educated in the Welshman's English — inauthentic metal, whose herring-bone lines where a fat saw cuts the lesser pyrites, at spoil-heaps. I crush a childhood's Welsh indignities of self-hood and inauthenticities. Their fighting, brave: my crudity, a dishevelled outsidedness, in large knees. Those boys disarrayed merely, but yet authentic in it with real gold, easy-natured and brutal. Oh, if the sun will arrive, top-hatted, spangling each of us. Love lamps safety, but I'd love genuinely, father or boy. The woman's curve lunges at me, whose fruits fasten my fingers to her. I think this is the way the bush sings at its growing. 16 the minnesota review The Armed "the actual duties ... are not in themselves unpleasant, it is the brutal militaristic bullying meanness of the way they're served on us. You're always being threatened with 'clink.'" — Private I. Rosenberg, 1915 "what an impatient landscape" — a traveller 1 Like dew, spotting the hill's edge, lumpily I left behind the town's lamps opening like eyes, the insides; rather, the insides of a bird's crop, with its spurt of muscle portioning a mash of half-stored seed, and grit, onto a sinewy gulf effort concentrates. I had this sense, leaving a place of coal. Effort of winter. I was returning to the camp, conscripted by the infantry at eighteen. Coldness, prickling moisture in slivers, I began a run, for camp frightened me: charge, sentence, and clink at eighteen; odd conjunction of fear with boredom, made a threat, which the army materializes, replica of exact brutality, its mintage, boys. I turned amongst light joined in shreads of continuous cartage of light, which suddenly did not exist, as if ingratitude had caused its orange nubs to melt. The road curved to my deviating straight tread, precipices; all that was sheer, I felt, dropping onto my knees to negotiate imbedded curves of blackness. Shame speckled my lips. 17 silkin 3 The instance became representative. I came off leave, with a friend, reaching at night, the same village; but night was hung up on the moon, a zinc nail glowing curiously; viridian forms zig-zagged erect, oblongs of darkness that strip of road hung livid in, with lakes in shreds, gashed indifferently to the land's edge. My friend, fearful soldier, with long legs quickening from me, though I begged him to wait, scissored his lucid shape into the frozen valley, a form bobbing, khaki beret, its badge lingering. And I, judgmental without sense amongst this plain light. ...


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