Twenty Edges / Riddles*
And the woman of the wide shoulders and the man of the weary view came into this
famous series to get the best of both the flesh and the devil.
And the devil was a class act: “How goes this whole weariness with you, man? Are
you dead to the known? And woman, are you other? Bring your cup into the
And the devil was out of this line. And the devil was the end.
And the man and the woman looked as if what was to come was war all over:
“What in the…!”
And language made a champion of difference.
And his wife looked for all the politics, and carried the weight of the politics, shaking,
The forests of tropical clouds fall –
warm drops of praise.
The worm bows to the bird,
caught in a hard storm of proof.
Cats and dogs check if water is
going to dance off the day –
it washes off her coat,
down her cheeks:
‘Why does it always
shadow or shine on me?
If the abominable storm falls…
the leopard lines up the goose
the bunting drops over the berry
the owl drifts over the white light
the ball bounds over the boot
the man ploughs over the field in cap, shoes
the blind blink…
and the flakes drop.
Cast your clock upon the wheel
like power off a duck’s back.
Carry your tortures under the bridge
like biscuit borne to the butt.
Supply your life down the line
like lavender in the high meadows.
Soften your wings over troubled courses
like nymphs over the cress.
Mark your way over the main holes,
like a boatman on the levels.
Heat your tower. Cool your closet.
Mill your melon. Pipe your weed.
Colour your gate chestnut.
Colour your table lily.
First proof of your eyes:
to make your eyes diviner.
First proof of your mouth:
to make your mouth the meter.
To whip around the latitudes,
to race around the block.
To whisper straight from the mouth,
To break the shoe in the box.
To guard the brass,
to trade in clothes and cart.
To back the powerful woman,
to play the soldier man.
The name of the lover is Sharon:
Sharon is a lover is a lover is a lover.
The chafer is in Sharon’s cheeks –
even love has its rocks.
Sharon is not in the garden, but near
the bay window, looking through
English-tinted spectacles as red as Christmas;
as white as the water of love.
It’s love all the way between two thorns –
the hip wars of love.
Sharon cuts the bowl of buds.
Everything’s coming up madder.
You can thank your lucky stripes
you were born under a wandering gaze.
You can thank your spangled chamber
you were awarded five little points.
Apple of David, Fruit of Bethlehem,
you are the pupil-shaped light of the show.
You cross my route; turn my banner;
twinkle and bless my studded shell.
*These riddles are written using the OuLiPo technique of ‘Edges’ 1 – a form of riddle conjuring presence through absence and whose subjects are revealed by word association alone. Each riddle is composed around a subject that is entirely represented by other words commonly associated with it. Neither the subject word, nor any other extraneous words appear. Each riddle was composed using word associations taken from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English and has a subject taken from nature.
1. after Michèle Mètail: Poèmes du vide (Edges: Poems of Emptiness), 1986, cited in Brotchie, Alastair and Mathews, Harry. OuLiPo Compendium. London: Atlas Press. 1998.
|andybrown is Director of the Centre for Creative Writing at Exeter University. His recent books are Fall 0f the Rebel Angels: Poems 1996-2006 (Salt, 2006) and Goose Music, co-written with John Burnside (Salt, 2007). Previous books are Hunting the Kinnayas (Stride, 2004), From a Cliff (Arc, 2002) and of Science (Worple, 2001, with David Morley). He edited The Allotment: New Lyric Poets (Stride, 2006) and Binary Myths: Volumes 1&2 (2nd edition, Stride, 2004). Andy Brown was originally an Ecologist, a discipline that informs both his poetry and his criticism, which appears in The Salt Companion to the Works of Lee Harwood (Salt, 2007).|