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A few crumbs from a table of plenty

  • 09 October 2017
  Selected poems



He's not difficult to find. Black men stand out in rich

barrios. He'll be standing outside the supermarket,


smiling, a self-appointed doorman selling a magazine

nobody buys. I've known him for a few weeks in each


of several years. His name is Samuel. He's from Ghana.

His father is dead. He sends what money he can to


his mother. He has no papers and no work because

he has no papers. Madrilenos offer small change after


shopping. Passersby sometimes approach with a euro

or two. Many dally to talk. He knows them, his clients,


various small and large details of their lives, what

to ask, friendly, without ever being thought a friend.


Before I fly home I hand him my leftover Euros and

he always asks god to bless me. I don't belabour him


with agnostic doubts for fear I'll debase his frangible

currency of gratitude, He gives me all he has to give.


I give him a few crumbs swept from a table of plenty.





So alive in death is how Juan Ramon Jimenez described the poet Antonio

Machado. We might say as much of Marilyn though it's not her words that

inform the imaginings of admirers fifty years post mortem. A giant plaster

statue in Rosalind Park models her scene in The Seven Year Itch, pleated

white dress billowing in updraft from subway exhibiting legs and underwear

while she blazes that ain't-this-wonderful grin. An image DiMaggio hated

so violently, demeaning for any woman of his, far too much whore and no

madonna whatsoever. Today they're shooting selfies between her legs. She's

also strung from light poles in View Street wearing a gold lame halter neck

gown plunging to her navel, her head tilted back just a little, her hands behind

her back, eyelids ultra lashed, heavily mascared, lowered so you can barely

see her eyes. Her lips scarcely part in an I-could-be-so-good-for-you smile.

Somebody said when she entered a room with Miller every woman hated her –

and every man hated him. With gratuitous nastiness to both the press labelled

them the egghead and the hourglass. Hers is a made up kind of life. Neither

blonde nor Marilyn nor Monroe. Mother in and out of mental hospitals. Foster

care for Norma Jeane. Abused. Believed Clark Gable to be her father for most

of her life. Relationships tricky. Three divorces. Got mixed up with Sinatra, the

Kennedys and assorted trouble. Difficult on the set. Late, moody and unlearned

of lines. According to Wilder an endless puzzle without any solution. Years

later, Clive James sneered She was as good at playing abstract confusion in the

same way