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published in full in Obsessed With Pipework, 12, ISSN 1367-9147


2 of 6 pieces from: Mata Hari and The Music Box



Sailing from India


Steaming, Sumatra to Zeebrugge,

under a moon washed up like a cuttlefish

on violet skies.


Across the drowsy Indian Ocean

a steady wake churns up spume’s feta tang.


Cymbal, drum and flute, Shenai music,

billows in the cinnamon echoes of the oil lamps.


Improvised curtains part in the Dutch officers’ mess

and a devadasi, sopping with jewels, glides

into Orissan dance.


The rhythms of sandalwood; her fluvial limbs

begin to lull the gods to sleep;

the officers languid on cigars and port.




Invocation to Siva


Like a rabbit in gunsights

I sat transfixed as she

winked at someone behind me:


the spotlit watchspring of my love.


I was falling backwards into her,

I was losing my skin, if I wrote

like she moved


what words could I use?


An audience of unwieldy bodies,

artists, poets, English officers,

consuming her politely,


using a fork to eat a peach.


Swedenborg himself

would have called her divine

but she still prickled


like a Colette novella.



I only have words to offer, just paper flowers,

picked scabs of self-expression,

and Symbolist bonemeal, connotative properties:

the poetry of double entendre.


The end. Curtain.

I place my stupid hat on my stupid head,

left in love

in Paris fog

to weather the spiel

of the gaudy streets.



Andrew Nightingale


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