Be the Pom

A ‘scriptographic’ translation of Anna Akhmatova’s
‘Beyepom’/’In the Evening’

Behind you my biker, my crazy 
taker, herbs in the pannier and rope. 
Sex in October and I’ll not mope 
for days when July was long and hazy. 
Oh, that’s me in the ocean: ‘Behold the air!’ 
No more to be catching it from nature: 
catch it today in the aperture 
of pink lips stealing a kiss upon the stair. 
Take heart, colleague, and with it run. 
Take heart from the earthly word chthonic. 
Must Mexico now be gin and tonic 
when a moa drinks margaritas in the sun?
To be the pom, my tongue a flicker 
of Queen’s Speech tripping on your tongue. 
In the evening, recycle me down at the wrecker— 
shorten my vowels. Make them wrong. 

From an African Church: Victoria, The Cameroons

Big waves today on the shantytown beach. 
I watch and then retreat up rainy streets 
to a shabby church where voices reach 
my ears: a choir led by a woman, the priest. 
And all because I know the melody and words— 
Gustav Holst: ‘Earth be fair and her people one,’ 
so far from the chapel of my childhood 
cracked stained glass rattles as we sway to the song, 
while outside the surf of the Atlantic Ocean 
roars contrapunto to the voice we raise, 
to the hymn that wants to deny the commotion 
of even this: the stranded fish that just caught my gaze, 
that bucked and flipped its silver on the sand, 
until the next great wave hauled it back like a hand. 

The True End of The Odyssey

To sit with her in the dust among the dead, 
not seeing that she might turn out to be 
the one who used to swim each night with me 
across the dark cove to our secret bed.
I’d heard that we would never meet again 
and so I’d go from city to city, 
her name a word, the word that I carry 
as I carry this oar like a winnowing fan, 
walking to the north, and always inland, 
and knowing I will not prove myself good 
nor plant this burden in the earth like a tree 
until I find and fall in with the man 
who has never tasted salt in his food 
and knows not even a word of the sea. 


Cliff Fell is the author of three books of poems. The latest, an illustrated acrostic, The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet, was published early in 2014 by Last Leaf Press. In 2015 he will be a teaching fellow at the IIML, convening the Poetry and Creative Nonfiction stream of the MA in Writing for the Page.