Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Just what have you been doing with yourself?

Sheltering by day from the sun I sit
In the cave, in the cool cave, watching the walls
For cracks and crevices to stretch and fit

The shapes of leaping animals that live outside,
Where nothing stands still for a moment
And the mouth of the sky is open wide.

The dust with which my mouth is full,
I spit on the wall, and shape with my thumb
A creature, half man half animal.

It's cool in the shadows in the cave.
The gods who live here are asleep.
I'll wake them with the din they crave.

I'll beat with a bone this tight stretched skin
Till it trembles. I'm not primitive; I know
It's the 21st century I'm in.

And I won't be here for long
To spit pigment on the crumbling wall,
Hoping the picture won't go wrong.

Most of us are waiting for a bus
If not an angel with a blinding light,
Until the screwers come to unscrew us.

The words with which my mouth is full,
I spit on the wall and paint in my head,
A creature half man half animal.
You there, in the bright air, are you cool?