B. T. Joy

Losing Music

I can’t listen to the music because I hear the music
as more than sounds.
Chains of heads in sonorous rhythms bound about
and shouts that must be pleasure knife the summer
and, there, a girl climbs onto her boyfriend’s shoulder
and notes uncoil from the stage and drift away over
concert goer’s bodies like broken bread along a river.

But I can’t listen to the music because I hear the music
as more than sounds.
I won’t be in the pavilion drinking wheat beer or wine,
or hanging from another’s arms, or in the sloppy mud
but uphill in a quiet bar, not knowing I have been before,
where the music travels from below but grows too thin
as if silence could do a penance, for someone else’s sin.

Overlay Beneath Overlays

You’re transparent because you’re not here, and yet
you’re still back in a place memory will not forget.
                Eliot called his ghosts his guests.
Ibsen’s ghost-boy yearned for sun.
When we see a shape we can’t discern
as though through the segment of a plate
smeared in soft paraffin we can’t see through,
it comes to us all blur and supplement;
all bent and creased but redolent
of something we suppose it is
because supposing’s less a fear
than the fear we feel supposing not.
                As you appeared,
you were as you were: beard poorly trimmed
as it was poorly trimmed on the Tuesday morning we woke
up early for an early trip; me lying on my hip; rain outside
and you, on the armchair, hunched forward, tied a shoelace.
Your face was turned down— I remember that.
You told a story about a balloon; you smiled—
your body— its shabbiness.
                The indelible colours
of your clothes, your joints, your fingernails
are calligraphies I’ve seen drawn out, I now see through
a screen behind a screen behind another and another.
Our short time together is an overlay beneath overlays.
Your weight on this mattress is an absent weight.
Your breathing in this room is breathless breath.
Somewhere on my chest your hand, in phantom, rests.
Somewhere in my throat your taste
arises and recedes in waves.

B.T. Joy is a British poet and short fiction writer living in Glasgow. His poetry and short fiction has appeared in magazines, journals, anthologies and podcasts worldwide including poetry in Yuan Yang, The Meadow, Toasted Cheese, Numinous: Spiritual Poetry, Presence, Paper Wasp, Bottle Rockets, Mu, Frogpond and The Newtowner, among many others.

His 2015 collection Teaching Neruda explores the most poignant messages of poets as diverse as Pablo Neruda and William Carlos Williams, Philip Levine, Izumi Shikibu and Wang Wei, together with visual artists, musicians and spiritual figures from an array of ages and persuasions. His 2016 collection Body of Poetry deals similarly with literary allusion, and the work and life stories of writers as diverse as Catullus, Horace, Frank O'Hara, Auden and Jane Hirshfield are discussed and revisited throughout the volume.
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