Motherboard, poems by Alex Skovron
Alex Skovron is the author of six collections of poetry and a prose novella. His latest book, Towards the Equator: New & Selected Poems (2014), was shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The Attic, a bilingual selection of his poetry translated into French, was published in 2013; Water Music, a volume of Chinese translations, has just appeared; and his novella The Poet has been translated into Czech. A volume of short stories, The Man who Took to his Bed, was published in October 2017.
It was the foggy morning you called me in
because your hard drive had suffered a conniption!
That was exactly the way you put it,
and when I shook my head and laughed
you stared at me, uncertainly, but then you twigged
and we broke the ice together there and then
with a scotch at the formica dining-table your bills
were paid online upon, not to mention
the poems you’d been clacking out fastidiously
until the screen froze and your annoyance
over the recrashed computer had rattled your default
composure. I said I thought your motherboard
had died, which amused you all the more.
So when we subsided to your op-shop chaise-longue,
still giggling and tangled a bit remarkably
in randomness, and when from the blue
you unbalanced me, your bare knees mock-playful
on my arms, your face right above mine
and I wondering at this novel turn in our hitherto
platonic consultations – well, to record
how it crossed my mind (for just an instant)
that I could stop pretending to resist; how you then
paused, triumphant, having pinned me
down in all four quadrants, your breath coming
sharp, iambic, your face enshadowed; and to report
how I closed my eyes (for just a second)
to weigh, for that second, my wild impossible options,
and how what then flashed before me
was not my villanelle life but a free-verse sestina
of my demise – well, to muse fantastically
on that fractal moment when switchpoints clashed
would be like trying to reboot a poem (your very phrase)
that I can never savour the risk of rewriting.
She was our brand-new neighbour, saucy, very single,
maybe a decade older than we two brothers next door,
a pair of precocious sixteen-year-olds. I found myself
indulging in steamy fantasies. This was Vancouver, 1972,
the summer unusually warm. I put it to Marcel, my twin,
that I would do just about anything to bed her. He scoffed
at my bravado: ‘In your dreams!’ he said. ‘And anyway,
she doesn’t turn me on.’ He gave a yawn, turned back
to his Molière. My hubris dented, I devised a plan: never one
for the direct approach, I improvised an outfit, a few props,
and two days later rang her bell, explained I was collecting
for the Blind Appeal and could she maybe spare a donation.
(From there, I’d figured, my charm would ensure the rest.)
She made me wait, went to the bedroom to locate her bag.
I ogled her silhouette as she slipped inside. And then I froze.
Beyond her door, half-naked on her mattress, Marcel.
A poem is somehow alive. (Seamus Heaney)
I suppose you thought you were the maker
And I the poem you made. Well, I have some news.
It’s true my physiognomy, the way you break a
Line or pick a word, is what you seem to choose
At any given turn to tailor your voice,
And that the credit, as it should, carries your name;
But let me gently disabuse you of the choice
You think you exercise within our little game.
You see, those rare and fragrant stanzas you compose
Are not merely your mind constructing me, but I
Lending a coloration to your soul – the way a rose
In perfect bloom incarnadines the soil it’s lifted by.
The difference lies in this: the rose withers and dies;
Our poem, if faithful to us both, survives.
The poems Silhouette and Transaction have been published previously, in English with accompanying French translation,
in the Paris-based journal La Traductière (in 2014 and 2013 respectively); Motherboard has never been published.
© Alex Skovron