Saturday, 4 June 2011

Five Poems - Sam Riviere (from '81 Austerities')

The following poems are from Sam Riviere's compelling '81 Austerities' sequence, of which there is information and more poetry here. Also, Andy Spragg has interviewed Riviere here.


tour the museums and charity shops
careful not to purchase anything
in case someone interprets it as art
do not read at the pub speak
of entities in need of authentic substance
be it souls gold or blood
try not to *do* anything
especially like linger
in the butterfly enclosure for a kiss
stay instead inside the reptile house
stinking of skunk
safe in the dry warm dark
don't compare origins with anyone
but remember thinking
"peeling your jeans off each leg
is like skinning a leek"
ignore the prospective tenants
filing through your sleep
by all means make an intrigue of your partner
but remember the bedroom is a gallery
and you should draft an exit
don't remain attached to any project
but defer indefinitely the work
towards your own capture
do not stain the toilet bowl
but taste your breath
and skulk across the early park


the glimmer or grain inside an actual
person remember those blurry tears
they felt at the time like evidence
planted a sort of elaborate deception
to convince oneself later like a full day
in youth spent practicing one's signature
for the writing presumably of cheques


I shouldn't be so mean
that woman in paris wanted money for sugar
a diabetic relieved to find someone english
yes I refused her
I doubt she actually collapsed
or the spanish family on the tube jaundiced
in awful london light going the wrong way
round the circle line
I could have said something
I was playing my game with the little piece
of dirt on the window
moving my head to make it vault
the obstacles at stations
this amoebic sprite
was starting to develop some character
when it cleared the signs at tower hill then monument
the reflection I met in the tunnel
was tinted blue in its commuter's grimace
but inside inside it was rejoicing


All day I have been watching women
crush ripe tomatoes in their cleavage
whatever you can think of
someone's already done it
there's a new kind of content
pre-empting individual perversions
I've seen my missing girlfriend's face
emerge cresting from a wave of pixels
I sleep with a [rec] light at the foot
of my bed all the film crews
have been infiltrated by
militant anti-pornographers
sometimes in surfaces there is a dark
ellipse it's the cameraman's reflection


torture is when the mind
is inseparable from the body
it is the making a point of this
the heads of the massive sunflowers
weigh almost as much as human heads
I was lying in a bathtub filled with petals
and later someone touched me on the subway
perhaps the real horror is that we are used
to being able to escape I look oriental
but my grandfather was german
and I have the pinkest nipples
riding past the empty greenhouses
I was thinking of undoing my blouse
and when my blouse rode up it opened
little diamonds between the buttons and there
was my skin I imagined the greenhouses
in flames then everything was made
of little diamonds it was a unit
that felt completely natural

Sam Riviere began to write poetry while at the Norwich School of Art and Design, and completed a Masters at Royal Holloway. His poems have appeared in various publications and competitions since 2005. He co-edits the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives, and is currently working towards a PhD at the University of East Anglia. He was a recipient of a 2009 Eric Gregory Award.


  1. 'Tory Scum' tag - hilarious!

    Good poems.

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