Two Poems

From the award winning poet Richard O'Brien

Songs About Louise

It’s something near to nakedness
to hear each other sing.
You know now how my weak vibrato
tenor trembles like a virgin
and your pure tone’s a dress
that slips from shoulders far too
sleek to see your fingers trilling
down the zip; Baez and Dylan

found a way of harmonising
side by side in Rolling Thunder.
You and me, babe, keep in key
but if we start to slide asunder
I can set your teeth on edge, the rising
hum from sharp to flat through every
nerve from neck to knee, the jangle
in the beating blood that’s tangled

up in you and blending red
with blue, ascending from your chest
to head and fending off serrated notes
that catch it by its messy hair
and scratch the air above the bed
that’s empty, to the open throat
a breath away from pure whistle –
cactus flower, fruiting thistle,

wild and thin as mercury,
and every freckle spiking grace
from G to F to middle C,
and into bass. Your face
is spreading like a semibreve.
It’s over now, Queen Jane, Johanna,
Sara, Lily, Rosemary.
Sad-eyed lady. Lonesome sparrow.
Absolutely, sweet Marie.


Rotational Symmetry

Not what you expected when you gave       your definitions – how
the crossword ink rubbed off onto your skin, your white cells patterned
and you joked: you were the solution now to all our problems.
Peeling down your dress you found your stomach   shaded, fuzzy; print
had left        its lattice, charcoal lipstick,       the imprint of a slap.
Double meanings;   a hunch       you didn’t        tell me this for nothing.
Between the bars   your body flowers         and I read the surface,
south-south-west from your collarbone, across and down. Unchecked, I
whisper        Esme, apse, nave, chi, ro, phi,   lip-parting puzzle tongue,
then turn one-eighty. Baby, I’m an unch,      lonely on a limb.
I need to climb your ladders         where the hair is       cryptic and dark.
There are so many things we think of,       love, before   the answer.
Now you’re smudged all over, clues rubbed off, the pattern broken. My
hands are yesterday’s news, your skin         Sunday-supplement glossy.
Our bodies were an anagram. We gave as good    as we got.