Featured Publication – Arboreal Days by Daniel Bennett

Our featured publication for September is Arboreal Days by Daniel Bennett, published by the red ceilings press.

The chapbook opens with the title sequence, Arboreal Days – a six-part poem exploring life amongst trees. Further poems explore the landscapes of cities and the country, of travel and staying still, or unearth the hidden stories of secret technology and lost films. In these shifting backdrops, the characters of the poems often appear bemused and disorientated, victims of absurd situations beyond their control. And always beyond them stand the trees, providing memory and continuity through inevitable change, despite their distance and indifference.

 

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Arboreal Days
2
Lost in the digressions
of that hard autumn
I followed you into the woods.
Morning is yellow light
tessellated through leaves
the wood is a place
children are taught to avoid.
During the early stages of the crash
everyone retreated
into a narrower sense of self
insulating themselves
from consequences and impact.
On walks along the creek
we saw tents strung up
catching oak helicopters
and lime and elder pollen,
we will date those moments
from the thin ring of soot
in a cross section of sycamore
the charred vein of bark
suitable for thumbnail sketches
and while things recharge
beyond us, we hunker down
into a comfortable hollow:
the ring around the pond
the sway of a willow
and in a far off public park
of finite summer
the girl recognised
that the elm tree was ours.

 

Treehouses
Remember when we brought home pine cones
and arranged them on mantelpieces?
In those days, the interiors of boilers
and drains were a mystery. Letters
always seemed to arrive unbidden
and brought with them experiments
with handwriting and ideas for travel.
Even during summer, we wore black
out of reticence and the whole of nature
seemed to be at the tips of our fingers,
but back gardens stared back at us
inscrutably and offered little comfort,
except for shade for cigarettes or random fires.
We grew accustomed to the idea of houses
as being more or less constant in our lives
even though we remained sanguine
about their disrepair, and cleaning happened
only on the last days of our tenancies.
Our cars, too, were rarities and even then
covered with guano or Saharan sand.
We drank apple tea in cold basements
and experimented with lemon cakes
out of some vague yearning for family,
although we spoke to our parents rarely
and only when something had broken.
We tried on futures with a sense of mystery
like wearing an old coat in a junk shop
and calling someone over to laugh at it,
before moving on, together, to things
we hoped would be ever more glorious.

 

Rainy Days On The Balcony

That was the summer of elderflower and flash floods,
when we cat-napped throughout the afternoons.
Water looked for its level. We awoke into a dream
where everyone wore shorts and baled out cellars,
rescuing photographs and cradles.
This time would teach us the value of tears.

When I lived in the basement flat
we let the neighbours water the garden,
and made iced tea from the mint growing above us.
It ran wild in the beds, the purple flowers spinning
with bumblebees and Red Admirals, like someone
had knocked us unconscious in a cartoon.

The house mover had tattoos stitched down his arm:
a row of crossed out women’s names.
We gave him a cradle, laughed at his life choices.
The reek of engine oil and wet grass
from the parkland, ah, it all takes me back.
We were right there, in the middle of it.

Now, marine colours remind me of summer:
rust, mould, tin, algae. The men on the park bench
drink and watch other men fish. Rain
slides into the puddles of the creek
sets it all rising, lolling outwards, swamping everything.
I look down from the balcony, far beyond those days.

 

Born in Shropshire, Daniel Bennett lives and works in London. His poems have
appeared in a variety of places, including The Manchester Review, The Stinging Fly,
Under The Radar, and Atrium. His first collection West South North, North South
East will be published next year by The High Window. He is also the author of the
novel All The Dogs. Follow him on Twitter @AbsenceClub.

Arboreal Days is available for purchase from the red ceilings press website.

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Meltdown Man – Daniel Bennett

Meltdown Man

Like the name of some poor bog body
curled up into leather and bone
or a shlocky B-movie monster
that’s what I called him
whenever he boarded the train.
He’d sway to the rails’ curves
popping lager cans like grenades,
his mouth warped into a sickle,
his jaw always primed for a punch.
I invented stories of regret
at every sight of him, poured
whole histories of lucklessness
into his pitiable frame,
so when I saw him around town
it only added to the joke. His face
mooning up over sandwiches
in my favourite cafe, or out
after work, when I would spy him
patrolling the evening streets.
Oh that jaw, those furious eyes!
Perhaps, I should have stopped him
even once, taken him in my arms
holding tightly as he struggled
against the squeeze of healthy reality.
Who knows? I might have saved him,
and through such benevolence
found a way to redeem the world,
but I wasn’t doing so well myself.

 

Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been widely published, most recently in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 from Eyewear Books. He’s also the author of the novel, All the Dogs.

Prayer for Italian Restaurants – Daniel Bennett

Prayer for Italian Restaurants

What happens to the ancient bottles
of Chianti and Barbaresco
congealing into stalagmites of wax?
Where shall we congregate
after the blackboards are repainted
and red sauce rusts
on discarded whites?
These portals have greeted us
beyond that regular dream
of an indifferent city. Puttanesca,
pesto, focaccia, let us count
a well-seasoned Bolognese
as a universal welcome home.
Allow us inside the glass counters
lined with cheese and salami,
bedding beside plastic onions
tomatoes and parsley sprigs,
wrapped forever in tablecloths
of red oil cloth. In Soho,
Camden and Holloway, throughout
the subtle lanes of Highbury,
leave us to the easy choices
of our younger days,
when they waited around us,
regular as sonnets on our streets.

 

Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have been widely published, most recently in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 from Eyewear Books. He’s also the author of the novel, All the Dogs.