08 June 2010

Tuesday poem: 'Ghosts of Saint James' by Harvey Molloy

Ghosts of Saint James


I toured in the Ballet Russe
till I fell from the flies

now I slam doors
play havoc

with the electrics
race the stairs up to the gods.

We toured Paris
before the Saint James

my sharp-cut black suit
I stole from dear Coco.

I bring my own weather
an icy draft

rippling the border curtain
on a midsummer night

before the tumblers turn
in the main door lock

& I switch back on the lights
once the manager’s left.

I ignored politics but favoured
Bakunin over Trotsky

so take my current role
as a constant source of interruption

with good humour
trust me

I’d never mess with the flying system.

The woman in red

You don't want to meet me
I'm always returning

from my final
trip-filled performance

the boos of the audience —
my death sentence —

the dressing room's empty
but my mascara run face

stares back
from a grease streaked mirror.

I'm the cries you hear
from the mezzanine changing room

the lady in the red dress
at the end of a flooded corridor.

I'm not meant to be here
& I wanted to be gone for good

but some nights
I wake to find myself rising

from up under the boards
warping them just enough

for the bitch above to loose her step.

By Harvey Molloy

Note: These ghost stories are adapted from David McGill’s Full Circle –the History of the St James Theatre (1998).

Harvey Molloy is a Wellington poet and teacher. His first collection of poetry, Moonshot, was published by Steele Roberts in 2008. He blogs at http://harveymolloy.blogspot.com/.

I first heard Harvey read this poem at a Poetry Society meeting a couple of years ago, and was very taken with it. Soon after it was published in broadsheet 4. I think it's my favourite of Harvey's poems (though now that I've said that, 'Closer' and 'A walk on the moor' are vying with it for position).

Harvey and I are doing a bit of a poem swap this week - my 'Orpheus and Theodora Descend' is his Tuesday poem. And there are lots more Tuesday poems at the official blog: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.


Anonymous said...

Love the poem, especially the ending of “The woman in red”. Those last five lines are fantastic, and unexpected!

Kay Cooke said...

I love how Harvey has used the lexicon of the theatre in this poem; consistent, faithful and fitting. A very enjoyable and lively poem

Tim Jones said...

I was at the same Poetry Society event to hear Harvey read this, was equally impressed, and had also had thoughts of asking Harvey for permission to publish this as a Tuesday Poem - so I share your enthusiasm for it, and was very happy to see it again on your blog.