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Jude Cowan Montague – Appointment

Profile Jude Cowan LE Poetry & Writing August 2018

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Appointment, poems by Jude Cowan Montague

Jude Cowan Montague worked for Reuters Television Archive for ten years as an archivist and has a lifelong interest in international news. Her album The Leidenfrost Effect (Folkwit Records, 2015) reimagines quirky stories from the Reuters Life! feed. Her most recent album as Montague Armstrong is Hammond Hits (Linear Obsessional, 2018). She produces and hosts ‘The News Agents’ on Resonance 104.4 FM and writes for The Quietus. She holds a doctorate in media history specialising in early British film production and is an occasional creative writing tutor for the Oxford University Continuing Education Department. Her most recent book is The Originals (Hesterglock Press, 2017). She is currently working on a series of novels reimagining the film director Alfred Hitchcock as a young boy and connecting with her own personal history as a former squatter in East London.


Surveillance Looks like Hamster Bedding

The paperwolves and the ripwolves smell the ink on you
and they’re staring into your eyes.

Shouldn’t they move in, fast, together?
– circling the black binders –

wolves have to live too, dissidents are their meat.
Take a professorship for informing, the agency said.
What’s different about information? This is my kind of trouble.

Shreds, the light snow thrown by a stagehand
in romantic silence, never amounted to 600 million.
I’m getting rid of the evidence, says the grey mouse, nibbling.

The motors burn, stuttering out,
so let the ripping start by hand. Muscles overworked,
destroying my past, my father’s journey
across the border, his post-war education in persecution.
Films we can never watch again, even rejected by the rats.

Each ripped word shakes against each other
impressed with its own value
rustling together in the copper kettle
nervous – today the fire is coming.

The torn-up world has already changed
away from paper stock and typewriter fonts,
it’s resuscitated crudely by manual puzzlers,
the future relies on informants.

Know scraps, how your value improves
with every word lost, with every scrap set ablaz-o-9.

12.45 Ulrike goes into her bathroom with Klara
12.46 Klara brushing her teeth
12.47 Stasi get out, the files belong to us.

Nostrils Snuffling for Cones

From Bialystok,
the marine Martin,
via Denmark, Kiel
running across the water,
he found Montrose acceptable.

Never fitting in
with the Scots, never.
Always the Kraut, we heard,
never liked, always the German –
WW1 didn’t help with that.

My aunt wants to smell those famous pine trees
before she dies.
She wants to see where you lived
and know why you left,
she clutches her papers, in biro and photocopy

her family tree,
spider hand, leaning hard left
on all those Thomases
Daniels, Brands and Martins
with you the odd one, the night star.

You, you made us odd in our kilted tribe,
and my aunt, she says, you know,
we weren’t allowed for so long
to go and see where we came from.
Things are different now.

It has been in her mind at night.
Was it the nose we both sniff the air with
that never quite suited tartan
they said, our Brand nose,
that droopy nose?

Was that why
she wants to smell
the pine resin even when death
is knocking at the door, yes we’re coming!
– just one minute!


Vaults

By the Russian post-revolution you can find Maoist China
or Rhodesia, as was, de facto
in the nations of tins, colonies of bobbins and unilateral beta
with the despicable and the genocidal,
beside the rise of independence and the white-run resistance
to decolonialisation, talks, guns, allies and forays,
territories of Reuters, Pathé , and London Weekend Television,
where Amílcar Cabral still alive in Conakry,
wields his fatal peaceful resistance,
squashed in stapled tins, rolled into round tapes.
Take me to your leader to sync the sound
and clean the dust from the face of Henry kissing
goodbye to guerrillas, manoeuvring the majority.

I’m looking desperately to make some impact
in between the falling cats and the sick parrots,
a provocative piece of footage
escaped a million researchers before me.
Policeman surround me, their tall red canisters
ready to spray with cooling water and dry powder
should a critical situation present ready to threaten history.
One foot on each shelf I forgo the ladder
in my quest to reach the top,
lifting myself up on tincan shoulders,
arm outstretched for Tape 15023,
2005, yes, that’s the one with the missing dopesheet.

Tape

This is the last tape I’ve looked at today
and it’s singing to me inside its plastic case.
Humming with the story of blood, the last
walk of bare feet through the orange dust,
all told in black-and-white, flickering with
late technology. This is the tale of murder
of eyes that look at me, that say, why, can
you see me on the other side of that camera?
Do you care about me? The camera went
with those feet through the jungle and picked
out the prints which made a path that led
to a destination where we cannot follow
however expressive the eyes and the bells
that ring in the song of the feet that walk
where we do not go, and yet there is nothing
for me here, no drama, not shooting, only
knowledge and the communicated message
through the eyes, We are going to die, now.


Appointment

We were booked at three to go into the war.
Your spot was on the top of the hill
and I was at the bottom.
When the flag was lowered
we started firing.

The problem was, we couldn’t see
the signal for stop.

I dodged through the lines
to find the captain
and he found the colonel
who found the president of the universe.
He lifted his face from his space-lobster,
dabbing his lips with his spun-silk napkin
and said in a tone of intense wonder,
What incredible fireworks!

Steenbeck Hero

Someone told me to look for the story that never gets told. It was lost in the forest of cans. A missing tale, stuck inside a can with a label that indicated something quite different. A story told by a man, who two or three countries fell in love with. Nations were entranced by his allure! By his kind face, his sweet teeth and his imposing eyebrows. He had the delicious mouth, one that could bite through an idea clean, splitting the atoms of plummy English with his ferocious lips. A man who made his mark in a different world, one permanently closed to us. If we wished to re-enter that world we could not. And I do not. But I want a window. I want to learn more. Hence I spent that weekend looking at every face for a way to get inside. For a doorkeeper, of a sort. But my excitement would soon fade. I heard all around me those elderly upper-class accents that were fading into the background at this time that these tins were filled. My hero wiggled like a snake through the tins, striding through the frames past the mosques and over the fields, and waved at me through the Steenbeck. Finally. We were face to face. He whispered silently, this is me. You are looking at who I was, remember me in your booth. I thought I heard him say my people have guns, your people gave them the guns, your people gave them the motive and I thought I understood why.


The Sun Went Down on Beacon Hill Park Leaving Soldiers in the Dark

They have been digging trenches for over a hundred years
disturbing the crust in this warm-up manoeuvre, practising
for when Canadians come to Europe.

The deep channels in the soil are an obstacle course
for hide and seek with friends,
jumping in and out in their brand army boots, proving gravity.

Whistling popular tunes, what a long way it is from here to there!
Singing a dirty ditty will help on the sea route,
songweave a spell to make time go quicker and get through the worst.

But Tipperary and Harvest-Moon won’t help when the bullet hits the brain
or the legs rip away, and the heart stops singing
when a brother gets it in the eye, so hide in the mud,

cover up with the earth and try and get to the earth’s centre
quickly, flinging the body into the ball that spins round the sun.


 

© Jude Cowan Montague