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The International Magazine of Poetry & Graphics ▪ Bi-monthly ▪ March/April 2008


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POETRY

 

Joshua Seigal              

 

Out of the Strangers Path

 

Overcoat flapping against bow-legged knees, I got up

on Sunday afternoon and made my way to the supermarket

a five minute jog down the rain-flecked street.

 

I went to buy the Sunday papers, in my haste

eschewing all thought of getting dressed:

I wrapped the coat round my shoulders and put

on my battered shoes without socks.

I left my legs clean as an invitation soon

to clamber back to bed.

 

Once in I went for some cut-priced bread,

and noticed a dad with two blonde-haired kids

with red cheeks and smiling eyes. A boy and a girl,

cant have been more than four or five, and he was

playing with them wrapping them up in his padded arms,

whispering jokes into their ears,

provoking little uproarious laughs,

 

Soothing their fears. Then I noticed him

notice me coming near,

just angling through to get to the till,

eyeing the scene with a proto-paternal glow,

and I noticed him give an intake of breath

and hurry his children out of my path.

Out of the strangers path.

 

On the way back I felt like one of those men

that parents tell their children not to take sweets from,

not to accept rides from,

to stay away from.

 

I ended up not reading the paper.

I ended up wishing I had someone to protect from me.

 


 

(Untitled)

 

Im dark of skin and dark of hair.

It clings in obstinacy to my head.

Some say my personality is also dark.

 

This is because I dont know where Im from.

 

My father says his family came over a while ago from Russia

so when people ask me where Im from sometimes I say Russia,

and they tell me that I dont look Russian,

and theyre right: I dont.

 

My mother says her family came over a while ago from Germany

so when people ask me where Im from sometimes I say Germany,

and they tell me that I dont look German,

and theyre right: I dont.

 

Sometimes I simply tell them Im Jewish.

And they reply that isnt a place,

and theyre right: its not.

 

Im in the hinterland, one of them, the other

with my big nose like on a Nazi propaganda poster

and my swarthy skin and thick black eyebrows

like Im planning something. But Im not.

 

Some say Im prone to moods as sickly as my hue.

This is because I have the ability to look at myself

and say, I dont know you.

 


 

Camden Town

 

Wed walk along the riverbanks, searching

for somewhere to eat and having just spent

twenty pounds on an eighth of oregano from some rasta

who saw two public schoolboys

coming. The sun would descend over London

as we waited for the hours to trickle by so

we could go to some party, and we

would idle in the market, me picking out a suede-jacket

going cheap, and you bohemian with your waistcoat

and knitted cardie, and we would scab a skin

from a twentysomething on the bench and crumble

the remains of our green inside. Wed sit

silently at the river, glazed-eyed, and watch

the roach drift away down the lock, or a casual couple

giving us a knowing grin, and wed expound

the virtues of Ezra Pound, or libertarianism,

or whatever else was going round, and youd tell me

about On the Road and Id tell you about some band

Id found in a second-hand record store.

 

Wed tell ourselves that these are the days, and that

wed never have a problem if our children smoked

weed or expressed individuality in various ways

with lip-piercings or tattoos we convinced ourselves

that we were The Revolution, and wed discuss the latest news

on the effects of hemp, and how best to grow it

in your mothers wardrobe.

Still some hours to shoot from the sky like ducks: wed try

that legal shit from the Mexican at that stall,

and wed go back to the river and it would maul our throats

like being raped in the mouth with a knife (you said).

This was life. This was the antithesis of respectable society; this

was the sledgehammer with which to smash its edifice.

This was the future. Now I go there as a tourist with

a faint smirk at all the miniature figurines

of rebellion. I dont know where you are now, whether

youre reading Burroughs in an opium-haze, or in prison,

or if you just spend your days behind a computer

in a suit, now that the London smog has risen.

 


Joshua Seigal studies philosophy at University College London. He has won the Dawes Hicks award for undergraduate philosophy and has been published in the UCLU Young Writers anthology. He writes largely around the themes of memory and childhood, and tries to discover new angles in the mundanity of the everyday.

 

 

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