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John Knowles

33 1/3 rpm

Last night as your breathing
settled into sleep
what I heard was the half-forgotten sound,
the velvet rush and hiss,
the automatic click
as the record player's arm runs out,
is brushed away
at the record's centre,
the pulse of its subsiding
oddly comforting.
33 1/3 rpm.
The knowledge that when the music ends,
there will not be silence.

The Makers Of Mirrors

To hold, asít were, the mirror up to nature
Hamlet. Act iii. Sc. 2

The makers of mirrors
are difficult to place
in the history of art.
In one of the first recorded exhibitions
of minimalism,
their works were hung, full-length
in the galleries of Versailles.
The audience was select,
but admiring.
As symbolists, avant les lettres,
their art
was only in the silvering,
they fell in love
with the brilliance of their reflections.

Later, in the early
twentieth century, their contribution to expressionism
was the placing of mirrors
above the sinks
in the washrooms of bars and hotels,
where in the unforgiving
the drunk and the half-drunk could observe
their alienated selves.

Their greatest contribution however,
thanks to the use of molten aluminium
and cheap methods of mass production,
was surely to the art of realism.
with the greatest care over mantelpieces,
in wardrobes and sideboards
in almost every conceivable public and private interior,
their images
of bags dumped in hallways,
of unmade beds
and cushions left scattered over sofas,
have achieved the supreme representation
of the everyday,
that art that doesn't seem to be an art
at all.

The Mattress

The bed stripped bare
we pause,
the sheet still held between our hands,
our attention drawn
to the concentric stains by the headboard,
the remainder
of the months of breastfeeding.
They seem to fan out
for all the world
with the delicate chiaroscuro,
the monochrome clouds,
and rounded landscapes
of Da Vinci's Madonna on the rocks.
Further down, we pass over
in silence
the precise marks of your blood
darkened now,
and wonder if we can't detect
the ghost image
of a human body down one side,
left by nights of flu and fever.


A boy of no more that twelve,
I know him from the street
where he stands in silence
with his mother,
a sheaf of magazines in her hand.

He enters the cafť alone,
speaks an English marked
by the modulations of another language
as he orders breakfast.
He has been here before. The waitress

does not welcome him,
the difficulties of his blurred
enunciation, but she is patient,
repeats the order, until they both are sure.
No eggs. Coke.

Itís a little later, she notices
the cut on his nose.
She asks if it came from school.
He nods. You've been in the wars love
she says.

The Cricket Suicides

They have gathered on the pitch
in their unstained whites,
long on, square leg, extra cover,
the cricket suicides.
They wait for the umpires
who will carry the bails
to the still
untenanted stumps, for the batsmen
to walk down the steps from the pavilion,
through the low gate,
to glance at each of them in turn,
take stock before the wicket.

As they wait,
they throw a ball hard
from one to another,
feel the ghost sting in their hands
as it leaves them,
move silently from one position to another.
But no one has crossed the boundary,
the third day, the fifth day has passed,
no one has walked through the turnstiles.
The sky has remained clear.
There has been no play.
They cannot break the tension.

Peeling The Orange

As I watch you work your thumb
Into the orange you hold
poised in your hand
I notice how you lift the peel
in a single piece,
a loose turban, slowly unwreathed
then allowed to fall,
an uncoiled spring

left to drop
on the arm of the chair,
distracted for the moment
by the thought of the peel spread out
like the pictures of the earth,
topographically exact,
that always puzzled
at the start of an atlas.

Only then do I notice
how you break open the flesh
and take each segment
one by one,
thin veined, to your lips,
to your mouth.

Shop Window

Across the street
they're cleaning the shop window.
A man and a woman,
they alternate
a sort of awkward, one-handed
one inside, the other outside the glass.
From time to time,
as if suddenly conscious
they might have overplayed their parts,
they stop,
examine closely
the space where their hands almost touched.


Originally from Essex, [England!], JK moved to Belfast in 1980 where he now lives with his wife & 3 children. He works as a librarian at Queen's University Belfast.

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