Michael Vince Poems

Twelve Poems of Michael Vince

photo of Michael Vince in Rome


At the end of the kitchen, the gas copper

in the scullery by the back door,

and next to the larder, a cramped store-room:

that was where our books were,

piled over the door on shelves aloof,

the rest a chaos of discarded toys,

bundles of clothes, collapsing brooms,

accumulations of dried-up shoes.

By the gardening-trousers on the wall

hung the uniform and truncheon

for my father’s special constable days,

when he’d stand beckoning cars in

to muddy gymkhana fields. I needed

a ladder and less fear of spiders

as I balanced up against the shelves

rifling through dust and disorder,

with old war pamphlets slipping down,

and tried to catch at The Cruel Sea,

or make sense of Pilling Always

Pays, then reached out for the three

heavy volumes of The Science of Life

where apes stood and became men,

blandly bare women showed everything,

and blond children lazed in the sun.

Elsewhere our displayed reading

was a row of cheap dull-skinned Dickens

that nobody ever tried to read;

did I prefer books to be hidden

and involve risk? By the time I fell

clutching in my hand A Tree Grows

in Brooklyn, I’d done with real trees;

and later, the healing scratch and the bruise

yellow as an ancient manuscript

were digested the way words fade

to become the body with no trace

of the deep difference they made.