The Green Parakeet

‘The green parakeet/escaped/to the great elm/above the tomb/of Clara Schumann’ – such modulated sound and timing provide the running thread through Desmond Graham’s new collection, which exhibits ‘the perfect management of syntax and juxtaposition’ that Michael W. Thomas and other critics found in his previous book, ‘Heart work’. ‘The Green Parakeet’ offers a darker mood and daring contrasts of form. The first half of the book is an elegiac sequence for an older brother, in which Graham discovers vitality through loss and love through difference. The second half ‘Postcards from Germany’, is a series of short, often elusive and teasing poems about places we cannot know without imagination. Throughout, pleasure and accessibility are brought by humour and invention; openness of mind and of feeling lead us to a knowledge of how much is absent.

‘The relationship between the poet and his brother is captured in a series of vivid poems … what unifies the whole collection is Graham’s concern to capture the quiddity of the loved thing, the essential genius of person and place.’ TLS

Killer Instinct

Where did that come from

your killer instinct

always winner

my father good at

almost everything

was always a loser

too kind to win

until we scoffed

and then he tried

too much in love

with what was to be made

to think he’d make it

perfectly – but you

my brother

counting cars

or naming buses

swapping stamps

or shoving pennies

kicking at the gate

with other children

that much older

not just me

were always winner

what then

could such a person

have to do with death

my guess is

you had seen it

in the distance coming

like a sky-er

from the boundary

where all of us

saw only blinding sun

hands cupped and ready

pacing backwards

just not capable

of letting it drop

Two Postcards from Germany


Helmetted in stone

beside their gods

they stand guard

over the ribs

of a rhine barge

hauled up

from the centuries’

latest low

the Opel Astra

which rose

like Aphrodite

from the water

exposing its driver

still safely belted

went for scrap

Mülheim an der Ruhr

Four pots of de-caf

a sans souci of sugar

the thoughtfulness

of fork through cake

they make

a colour-card

in pale delphinium

primrose and magenta

and a little way ahead

and taller


they pluck umbrellas

from the empty hatstand

like choosing gladioli

for a grave

and vanish

into rain