Red Valerian

Sudden and huge, they loll
freeborn over the walls and beds
alongside the garden path
in brazen seduction. The surprise
is longed-for, red vulgarity
overdue on the garden’s boredom,
its monotony of municipal green,
red on its ashen browns,
its dust scars and lichen
of lawn and trees,
                                 and on life.
The municipal monotone of unremembered
routine awaits eruptions
of brightness, spots and splashes,
even the absurdity of Tony,
manically voluble, the crisis
and jocular talking point
of the North London contract
or a chance perspective, the two
Highbury steeples unveiled
by the world-curving height
of the council office block,
the tree awning stretched
above the rising tiers
of A Road and terrace, the country
undulant with chestnut mounds
of housing, pricked upon with scaffolding
and cranes.
                        Reds are wilder.
They stall then tingle into
Red Alert’s inhalation,
Code Red, the foreboding
in a risk register, hazards
under the bed, the thrums
and ripples beneath the smiles,
chatter and repose on a salient
of sun-crumbled and fertile hillside,
serenely baking, but sea-enclosed,
or beneath the uplifted gaze
at a lone maroon, aweing
and sacral over the hushed nights
of conflict, before the pounding
when routine’s juddered into the new
anxiety of precarious days
and ultimate desolation.
                                             Here
the unplanted invasion bursts upon
and sexes up the picture,
but soon enough subsides
and settles soon and then
becomes the picture, the warning
fusées warn but only
of themselves, but though they soften
every day the reds
renew like hap, like the accidence
of curious and memorable meetings
the chance power of a receptionist’s
quirk, and the sudden halt’s
excitement, the jolt into alarm
or giggling eases into the smile
of a joy relished in peace.

Paul Connolly’s poems have appeared in Agenda, The Warwick Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, Scintilla, The Dawntreader, takahē (New Zealand), Dream Catcher, Orbis, The Journal, FourXFour, The Seventh Quarry, Sarasvati, Envoi, Obsessed with Pipework, Southlight, Foxtrot Uniform, Guttural, The High Window, Nine Muses Poetry, Canada Quarterly, Ink Sweat & Tears, Northampton Poetry Review, London Grip, and The Cannon’s Mouth. Shortlisted for the Bridport and Charles Causley Prizes, he was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly and third in the Magna Carta Poetry Competitions.

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