ONE 3 • Poetspace 3: Mary Palmer, Steve Plummer and Kevin Cadwallender

~in memory of Players
Edwin Booth & Samuel Clemens~
Words are nets through which all truth escapes”
– Paula Fox

What is language
but marks & remarks?
Still they say it all
or almost
or as close as
we ever dare to hope.
So mark on, Twain & co.
Together we’ll work to get it right
& express all we can ever know
before that dying of the light.


– Mary Folliet
The Building Trade
Julia is an existentialist. He works on building site
with Tom the labourer, Fred the brickie and Bob the hod carrier.
It works like this: Tom fills Bob’s hod up with bricks,
Bob carries them to Fred and Fred builds a wall.
Julian’s job is to help the bricks understand their own reality.
Tom has ham sandwiches for lunch,
Bob has cheese and Fred has egg.
Julian doesn’t have lunch as he feels this is saying ‘no’
to a society which insists on social imperatives such as lunch.
Sometimes the bricks argue with Julian saying
‘But we have the right to freedom.’
Julian smiles, ‘Man is condemned to freedom.’
‘But we are bricks’ they cry, ‘why do you oppress us?’
Some days the walls just don’t get built at all.
Julian doesn’t sleep well.
He dreams of a mass uprising of bricks,
of boundaries collapsing all over suburbia,
of Sunday morning street warfare with flymos
and hovers crashing over disputed inches of turf,
of middle-class landowners with nothing to keep
their mortgages in…
Tom practises hod carrying
Bob practises bricklaying
and Fred is doing a night class in sociology.
Julian is an existentialist and lives outside
of the restrictions place upon him by the
constant problem of having no self to esteem
and no self to be ‘ish’ with.
This however does not prevent his sleeping
with the gaffer’s daughter who has
a Btec in Freudian hairdressing,
which means that everytime
she cuts someone’s hair
they look like a dick.
– Kevin Cadwallender
When I was 15 I left school and worked on a building site as a Floor Tiler. For most of my two years I felt like an existentialist, eventually I left after throwing a box of tiles at another tiler and hitchhiking home. The poem is part of the “Baz Uber Alles” sequence published by Dogeater Press. – KC
Punky Night
‘Halloween, trick or treat?’
The witch kid giggles.
Bags heavy, you slam the door.
In the dark, touch
coin-cold walls.
The lounge, a candle flickers
on mothery lace, set for tea.
At your place, defined
by heirloom knives, an apple.
Swept by an urgent tide
you take a Hobnob
and another. Devour
the whole packet,
forbidden fruit cake
a box of Black Magic.
Bloated, crumple
on the sofa
to drown in dreams.
Dawn rouses
one fish-pale penitent.
You slick a churchy smile
glossing thin lips peach,
brush crumbs away
and, locking the mortice,
grin sweetly all Sunday.
– Mary Palmer


Port of the False Man
I rished to the Hill of Wine to filch
the wild orchids you promised in my dream.
‘He’s gone.’ A flash storm
from Port of the False Man.
Rain, washing down woad-dipped sky
blurring my vision. Lost, I gleaned only hemlock
and goblin apples, rotting ochre among thorns.
A peevish wind fretted, the chill withering
my mottled bouquet, tossed
grey as grief, to the Lapwings’ Lochan.
– Mary Palmer

Pasture of the Geese
I have crawled on beaches,
hands sticky with blood and tar
clambered rocks where
the guillemot draggles
oil-slicked wings.
No more angel than a shag,
a junkie tossed to the gulls,
I gobbled up my nightmare
and retched on the dark.
Now, I treasure-trail barefoot,
squat on dunes soft as breasts
where water-flags surge
and lambs shudder the ewe.
Here, I this thin place
I choose to dream.
Milk-blue terns
on water
like peebles skim my longing-
for the wild goose
whose wings alone
can shelter.
– Mary Palmer
Science for Poets I: Cosmology
The Big Hand
Entropy, you see,
shows thermodynamically,
that time has an arrow.
The milk stays spilled,
but the slap wakes us still,
and endlessly.
Entropy, you see,
promises interminably
to set us free-
from the big hand.
– Steve Plummer
Science for Poets II: Biology
Drive to the Dance
The alarm of life, the young docs say:
not momma-guilt in a one hoss shay,
just an aimless drive down the DNA –
every turn impossibly near,
until the final twist, snipped off at birth.
While wayside creatures kill fair, to eat,
we knowing beasts, on the scent of mirth,
touch tongues with fate in the rumble seat.
The allemande left, do-si-do
winds straight out from the radio.
One bare heel tapping, gut to toe,
fate calls the rell, and round we go,
careening past defeated chance.
Driven to the dance.
– Steve Plummer


Science for Poets III: Meteorology
Water dreads rising
unfaithful from gravity’s bed.
She denies the moon’s playful tugs.
But she will never resist
the breath of a brooding storm
on her face.
Every tempest in another doomed lover,
all swirling heat and rising vigor,
drawing her up, whipping her high –
rubbing ecstatic to the white release
when two hundred million volts
burn the arcs to the ground.
Cooling, she falls away
to muddy the cracked bowl clean
and steal again to gravity’s
groggy embrace.
– Steve Plummer

Science for Poets IV: Psychology
Under the Pont-au-Double
Giving it up that night,
wet on the greening stone,
I heard the river’s claim
to my balance of time
and her promise to carry
the past downstream
to the very ocean,
far enough, cold enough.
Then I glimpsed the child
that our cruel nature calls
to these encounters;
he was fleeing the bloated remains,
his innocence welled up
but leaking out
in every tear.
– Steve Plummer
The Air Above the Yards of March
All the fine crystal is breaking
I evening’s furnace mouth,
and smoke sails high over the town
while there, under the power lines,
in that wild swath,
a boy walks a world of his making.
Rain spits into the hard
unready earth, winter-burned elms
tangle a low sky dragging north over the town,
and in a kitchen
a pittering calm
settles, like a thought we had once all shared
– David Troupes