Sandeep Parmar

Sandeep Parmar

from Faust


We see the flatterer     coming up the path    through a single eye 

            We sisters, monsters grey from birth, keeping counsel in our cave

                       We graceless Graeae, kin to Gorgons, Fates, we Phorcides

                                   who pass between us one eye, one sharp tooth

                                                We who cannot see the devil all at once

                                                            But know his many guises

            He, the procurer of certificates.
            He, the forger of passports.
            He, who is paid only in cash.
            He, a forgetter of faces.
            He, a registrar, a bursar, bank manager, 
                        a purser, a pilot, border patrol officer,
                        a suitor, a celebrant, senior doctor.

Scatter yourselves 
over the earth, 
he ordered. 
Go at once 
you seedless 
you beasts. 

So I have taken the eye, and left you our shared tooth.

What I have seen, dear sister. 

            If you can name yourself, no riddle will remain 


Faust:            There is no past or future in an hour like this, the present moment only
Helen:                            is our bliss                                         
— Goethe

Child, whose name is abundance            
            who leans into a drift rising 
                        heroic into a war 
                                    across a wingless ocean            this rumour this child 
                                                whose very happiness depends on battle 
                                                whose body will disappear into the body
                                                            of a man and then into the unholy 
                                                            darkness that unknowable shore 
                                                            of the ground descending 
                                                            alone or into the wide sky 
                                                            as mist the body whose leaving 
                                                            is untouched gleaming untarnished 
                                                            whose parents lean into a present becoming 
                                                            quickly past whose name means everywhere 
                                                            a loss I catalogue each moment its noble fall 
                                                            holding fast—mother—to these clothes that scorch 
                                                            and draw up like smoke clouds this body is the last child
                                                            these clothes sewn by my hands you have long since outgrown


I mulched the roses for your physic, 
the Doctor says, lopping each head
into a good sterile jar. Tomorrow 
I will sow these fermented blooms
back into your lungs, its opal tincture 
an apotheosis of rainwater injected
into the body on trial. The townsfolk, 
drawn by some popular ritual or by an
unharvested crop will macerate spring 
bulbs back into the earth, ploughing 
on a saint’s day, dancing in a beerish 
circle, claiming I am their protector. 
—I confess to you what salves are poisons
what passes for heroism, I weep, I laugh
loudly, knowing only the devil knows—  
that sharp-elbowed CEO at the lectern
scalding the lawn brown like herbicide.
I signed a contract in my blood to strive.
A reporter starts up, corrects himself, 
gets my name right, right again, wrong.

SANDEEP PARMAR is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool where she co-directs Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing. Her books include The Marble Orchard and Eidolon, winner of the Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection.