Link to: Ancient and Now

Poems on this page

– Stray
– Predictable Experience
– The Construction of the Forth Railway Bridge 1882-1890

I’m a dog
a lost dog
a looking dog
dog that scents back over its shoulder to find
        what ?
that it might have no master any more ?
lost dog
looking dog
ears flat to the neck
padding purposefully beside strangers
overtaking by degrees
columns of strangers
forwards again
along the pavement of the five-o’clock street
beside the cyclist wheeling the bicycle by its saddle
beside the hangdog man with the worn, stuffed briefcase
beside the couple who pause briefly by the pizza-shop
still forwards
lost dog
        what ?
and when before sunset ?
don’t know
and nor do any of these gods about me,
eyes in ruining sunshine,
following thoughtless noses
to mats, to spouses and to suppers,
failing to scent tomorrow
in the stour of traffic
my tonight


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From: ROCK IS WATER or A History of the Theories of Rain
Poems by Colin Donati

Predictable Experience

I am like that sad animal the gibbon in the zoo 
dipping its fingers in its own sex and sniffing them 
lain over a bale on its back, flat amongst tyres in its box, 
lit by white bulbs on a drizzly day and gazed at 
from behind thick plate glass in the crowded walk-way 
by the smooth-faced murmurous-tongued cousins there 
who pass in file hour upon hour and who I do my utmost 
to pretend are harmless.

with my straw, two ramps, some rope and a hatch to the outdoors, 
I am like it, yes and why? Is it because I’m not sure 
that I care for my numen and I’m lonely and I make 
shadow-shows that show my own kind terrorised 
by sixty-foot gorillas or voracious escaped dinosaurs 
and my highest dream is to lie with a partner 
in the stink or our own bed? Can this be true? 
Can this really be true? Can the mind heed 
no higher goal?

The mind protests its shabby hopes against better visions 
through establishment of sure connections such as
we are not animals when we engage in sex 
our experience altogether more elevated and unique 
than anything the gibbon undergoes with mates. 
I have a salary, can drive a car, understand 
the layout of a supermarket, answer phones

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The Construction of the Forth Railway Bridge 1882-1890


       Knitting and riveting
         pinning and weaving,
       knitting and riveting
         pinning and weaving,
         building the girders out
            over the water;

       gangers in rivet-teams
         sweating at furnaces,
       wielding the rivet-tongs,
         hammering plates in place,
         hanging the arms
            of the great cantilever;

       decking the space with them
         over the water,
       complex equations
         for cross-beams in tension,
         joints in suspension,
            engaged with all weathers –

       wind blow the bridge-bays
         the bridge-bays distort with it,
       sun swing from south to west
         arms bend away from it
         till they’re braced rigid
            warping the measure;

       the bite of the ice air
         through jerkins of leather,
       a shower of rain adding
         weight to the structure
         already supporting
             chain, crane and timber

       stage, winch and hawser,
         furnace and hammer,
       the winds of the firth
         exerting their pressure
         on three growing galleons
            sailing the water;

       the struts that the jacks lift,
         the ties where no pin shears,
       the skewbacks through which all loads
         pass to the bridge-piers,
         building the girders out,
            building them further,

       the light through the structure
         that turns on each girder,
       each tubular tower,
         the ring of the worker,
         macramé of metal,
            tracery of shadows.

       The man with the camera
         slides other plates in place,
       times each exposure
         then snaps shut the wooden case,
         captures the moment,
            freezes the hammer.
Colin Donati

from Rock is Water (Kettilonia, 2002)

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© Colin Donati. All Rights Reserved.

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