THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2013

Christopher North

CENSUS

'Other items sent in by people included credit cards, cheques, a set of deeds, family
photographs, a completed driving license application form…'
Office of National Statistics April 2011

…and some sent small cellophane packets of toenail clippings.
There were locks of hair, a train ticket from Paddington,
a shirt button (white) and a small plastic tub of collar studs and cuff-links.

There were copies of expired contracts, X-rays of persons now deceased
and a group photograph of a wedding – only the photographer's company identified,
a concern long since out of business.

And restaurant bills, small pieces of fabric from an heirloom counterpane,
a condom wrapper and an empty box of 'Three Castles' cigarettes,
the gold foil still intact.

Then there were the poems, and diaries and bundles of letters – even four hundred
typed pages of a novel that began:
'At Four-o-clock it rained. It was always raining. She wanted it to stop
but it continued relentlessly…'

There were children's Xmas cards with glued tinsel and a box of journals
filled with minute, inked handwriting in German.

Some were delivered personally with effulgent floral tributes,
in one case accompanied by a small man in a Charlie Chaplin costume
who performed a little dance, clicked his heels
and asked the desk clerk to sign an attendance sheet fixed to a clipboard.

There were offers of liaisons in dim hotels near Kings Cross,
a week in Gomera, an invitation to a Hopi Ear candle ceremony
and even the conveyance of an entire Midlands country estate
including three miles of trout stream.

Some offered hope, atonement, apology – prayers to a wide range of deities
and promises of pilgrimage to Guadelupe, Santiago, Jerusalem

and there were offers of world peace, universal Karma,
the melodic spread of a benign and loving cosmos – a caring eternity.



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