poetry by giles goodland


The Clouds

The Fifth Column was a pillar of smoke.
Haze launched a smear campaign
against the sun. Indefinables were growing.

Children pointed from pushchairs and asked
What do those clouds mean Mummy?
and were struck about the mouth because
children died knowing less than that.

Those we thought we talked to lessened
until there was nothing but the thinnest
of differences between them and air.
Friendships dissolved, bonds
and marriages slipped away.

Language was the battle to define,
but neither words nor world stay stable.
A cloud of unmeaning took out the horizon.

There followed a phase in which
objects appeared that had no name:
in fields, street corners, bedrooms. They
buzzed or stayed still, misted and collapsed.

In the Ministry for Naming, the photocopier
disappeared paper, and there was no name for it.

Wind-sorted fliers flocked empty streets.
The State Department issued its last
statement. The media could not run
on stories that had no name.

I carried my body to the dump and
queued for hours for someone
to wrap me like a sweet and lay me in a line.

Other people sought asylum in clouds, flocked
into mist, crossed borders at night,
subliminally. Finally, with no one left,
there was nothing left to say.

Giles Goodland works as an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. His books have been published in the UK, including Littoral (1996), Overlay (1999) and A Spy in the House of Years (2001).

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