Philip Gross

Two Poems

The City Between

Now the light hangs, entre chien
et loup
. Someone clatters a pan
          through a barred courtyard window:

the donkey they threw down the well
in the Hundred Years’ War is still
          braying, bricked-in, in the first vans’

or the lasts’ sound, loading. And a gull
starts up, and up, as if just recalling
          the sea, was it, that left the harbour

years ago? Entre chien et loup
don’t ask the people passing, few
          and heads down, if they’re stragglers

from a day’s work or creeping awake;
in this borderline town between states
          of light, seasons and latitudes,

who knows? Is the bird carried up
like an ash from the burning touched
          by a dusk or a dawn? Who

knows? Not me, for here among
the greyish dogs, the not-bad hang-
          dog dogs, is where I come,

                 dear loup, to meet you.

Next to Nothing

… a wasp, a wasp husk, there behind the washstand
in a place he notices whenever he can’t reach -
from the bath, or the loo. It will nag him, a little, as
                                                       slightly in fact as that slight

sound there beside him, a bodiless rasping, some
September afternoon: there was a wasp, maybe this one,
scraping pale tracks down a fence post. He found the nest
                                                       in the attic, a papery brain,

and now there’s this – grey, desiccated to a crouch
as if trying to stand on almost nothing. He’ll sweep it up
later, he thinks. And doesn’t. Or does and forgets - it’s such
                                                       a next-to-nothing thing -

until who knows when the thought might strike him,
in the long slide of a car crash, or in some consultant’s
waiting room? Did I? Its slightness is too much
                                                       to grasp. Like the spot on the sky

where his father showed him Venus, in broad daylight,
not half a wink of brightness brighter but, if you know
where to train your binoculars, look, yes, and it’s never
                                                       not been there.