Claire Crowther

Grace Lamont, Housekeeper, Surprises Vyacheslav Molotov, Russian Foreign Minister, at Chequers in 1941

In peace time, as in war time I am not afraid
to open bedroom doors and point at sky,
from which a plane could burn its braggadocio through
bare glass. I concede that I surprised a guest,

ready to shoot if he’d had a moment’s misapprehension.
I frowned at his pistol. I pointed: Curtains.
He untied the ropes that held the drapes apart,
dragged the heavy chintz, pulled the hangings to.

A torch would be the worst looking like intent,
someone peering, searching, entering, backing
to the back door, coming across the garden, covering
the beam, that glow, that flash with one hand. Looking.

So we should gown space or we are all thrown
into country night. I thanked him for not
exposing us. We shutter our lights. I’m not afraid
to close in on him. We have to be lookers.

After Her Grand Tour, a Naive Visitor
Composes a Cento of Unattributed Lines
Unaware of Scattered Unattributed Lies.

‘ed è subito sera.’ (Salvatore Quasimodo)

What about it, English tourist, do you think?
Lament the last of Italy. Aqua morta.
Great poems written before this was even Italy.
Too young for mourning. I could not say no. No.
That silent woman comforts shy ragazze.
I have two brothers. Have a good trip. Ciao ciao.
The institute is locked. Foundations shift. No.

Missing taxes could pay off our debt. Che?
But I will be forgiven my debt next year, si.
Every ancient flag and cobble stone. Walk?
It is not lack of work, it is resentment.
They want to live alongside us. Be neighbours.
That soldier’s shoulders slump. Look at the poplar.
Who locked them in jail? No, in peace. Ne pense?

There’s nothing here for them. Our kids are leaving.
I must never leave the Velvet Mountain.
I go to the cathedral for the organ.
There is no belief in me. Palestrina.
You have no car. I come for you. I take you.
The lady I love lives alone. Urbino.
Ti aspettiamo. Che ne pense? Pense?

Claire Crowther has published three collections (Shearsman), the first of which was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Prize, and four pamphlets. She is co-editor of Long Poem Magazine.