Rebecca Close

Rebecca Close

The Response Times*

The City of London Corporation Gazes at Red Swamp Crawfish On the Eve of A Formal Warning Against Swimming Nude in the Men’s Ponds (20th September 2012)

After George Michael

As the cat has its shit-box filled with sand the ox its bow 
the horse its curb so we have our desires our ink 
I paint the prospect red a cuckoo for every word of fear 
a cuckoo suspect to the straight ear the dorsal surface 
& elongated claws of cruisers mock married men 
the long swimmeret extending is a secret no one knows about 
a personal thing I’ve got to go somewhere & chill out 
I admit I am here for sex but I am astonished that a crab 
as famous as this would consider these ponds 
where I swim nude apart from my blue fur-trimmed robe 
always escorted by my ward beadle never distracted 
from supervising the people’s link to this land I don’t even like 
the crab I didn’t even recognise him immediately 
I was busy smearing a tonne of sex-related waste 
across the press while promising to spend £40,000 
to wipe their back pages clean what a smooth triangular face 
tapering behind without a central keel having no spine 
makes this uneasy truce creamy this crab looks red 
‘you’re not totally English, are you?’ I should nip this 
in the bud the crab nibbles my toes then grips & snags 
a cuckoo on every tree my nose rubbed raw & red 
‘It is highly dangerous at 2 a.m. the threat of these killer fish’ 
I trumpet ‘endangers swimming the milk comes home frozen 
in the pail the blood be nipped the ways be foul & roasted crabs 
hiss in the bowl’ the words are harsh you’ve got to have faith 
I’m looking older now I’m letting go.

*The Response Times is a series of poems that use satire to disclose the transformation of the details of queer life and family into spectacle in the UK media over the last four decades. The title suggests a counter newspaper dedicated to ‘the times’ (creeping, looped, delayed, actual) of response. ‘A cuckoo on every tree’ and ‘the milk comes home frozen in the pail the blood be nipped the ways be foul & roasted crabs hiss in the bowl’ are quotes out of order from William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (1590s) and ‘You’ve got to have faith’; ‘I’m looking older now’; ‘I’m letting go’ are quotes out of order from George Michael’s songs Older (1996) and Faith (1987).

REBECCA CLOSE (b.UK) is an artist researcher and poet, based in Barcelona. They are cofounder of Critical Días and author of valid, virtual, vegetable reality (Melita Hume Prize, 2017).