What Must Happen

What Must Happen

by Jeffrey Wainwright


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What Must Happen has concerns which might be grouped under three headings. First there are personal, mainly elegiac poems that recall parents, relations and friends. The second grouping, including the title poem, has poems on wider historical subjects some of which relate to the personal through Wainwright's recollections of his upbringing and the history of the Potteries. This group also includes a series of contemporary characterisations of some of the Roman gods. Thirdly the collection includes some extensive sequences best described as ‘variations’ in that they reiterate and vary particular words, phrases, images and most importantly rhythms.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784101961
Publisher: Carcanet Press, Limited
Publication date: 07/01/2016
Pages: 84
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jeffrey Wainwright was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1944 and was educated locally and at the University of Leeds. He has taught at the University of Wales, Long Island University in Brooklyn and for many years at the Manchester Metropolitan University where he was Professor in the Department of English and its Writing School until 2008. His first poetry collection was published by Northern House in 1971 and first full book, Heart’s Desire, by Carcanet in 1978.

Read an Excerpt

Holy Toledo!

By John Clegg

Carcanet Press Ltd

Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Wainwright
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78410-197-8



Stumbling over that fabled city –
some Piro Indians, sat in a loose circle.
One offered water, another
the group's first and only
deliberate gesture:
then salt crystals on the horizon
dissolved and refocused:
Teypana pueblo, its lowslung adobe,
its flood precautions.
In the desert it was the god Thirst
our four-bead rosary told and told,
red, white, red, white, last white the moon.
Salt still fogging the blood
as we hammered the stakes home
    for succour, Socorro.


That I had time to think, I still have time
not to correct my grip but drop the rope
before the lasso fell and yanked away
the loop I'd somehow nocked around my thumb.

That I had time to notice I could think
and that the time to think in was reserved
for thought, like hours in a monastery.
I knew, because I saw and still held on.

That I had time, time sinking like the rope
around the moment's neck, and I had thought
like slackness in the rope, the little loop
that half a moment's tension would wrench true.

That I had time and then the time was taut.
My thumb, erratic firework, shot past,
and in the time reserved for me to breathe
I swear my wrung hand tightened on the rope.


I followed every wire in the server room
once, waiting for the photocopiercum-scanner
to flog through another
thousand pages, hitchless, you could
hear the all-clear subsong. My job
was to stand in that cool air and unjam
stuck sheets. This was Cambridge
and the server room was former Kings
accommodation, reaching through
the racks your hand brushed marble
sunflower bosses on the fireplace,
I pinched the inside wire, keeping track
and thought of Heather, could her book
be really on The British-Irish Lyric
as a whole or was I misremembering?
Two wires seemed to have no terminus.


Meadow needs backstory.
This is grassland
being put to scythe,
its third or second
season under man.
And path needs more
than bent grass,
boot marks, landmarks.
This is like the single-use
way tracked by ships.

Here country
puts aside its name
for stretches.
On an outcrop rests
the mower's jacket,
pocketed whetstone
and flask in shade.
He mows
the inexhaustible.

If asked
(who'd ask?)
his guess at where he lived
would be dependent
on the speed of news.
One night the land
secedes by fiat,
two weeks later
reattaches like cloud
to a different country,

and overheavy now.
Meanwhile at what will never be a real
ford, a river
only named on maps
is peeling back
the foil from the gold.
The mower breaks
since time out here's
like space,

divisible by whim.
He nibbles
at the bark teat
of his lukewarm
waterskin, pulls off his boots
to number (each
red dot a famous victory
for Mexico)
the numberless
mosquito pocks.

He needs backstory.
One night
on the oldest rancho,
while the Dons
were stringing fishline
marking tract
and cattle-right on land
they'd never seen,
possession terms
on places not yet properly yoked

there came a rider
dressed in black


The fly is a scribe.
Its copy-text
is the unimagined idea of itself.
The flask is a cloister.

Actually the whole lab is the cloister.
A. at her microscope
is the monk. The fly
is her marginal addendum.

The microscope is a jeweller's loupe.
The flies are gemstones.
A. is shining them up
with the superfine tip of a paintbrush.

The lab is a factory
for turning flies into ink.
The rate is a thousand flies
per published word.

The flies are a pie of font
with serif bristles.
The microscope is a typewriter.
This is the index.

The fly is a colophon to its DNA.
This is the colophon.
This is an embryo fly
in dazzling false colour, wriggling off the confocal.


At first we didn't call the dark 'the dark';
we saw it as a kind of ersatz light,
a soupy substitute which shucked the hems
and wrinkles from our objects. That was nice.

And later on we came to love the dark
for what it really was – admired how
(unlike a candle) it could fill a room,
(unlike a torch) it focused everywhere,

(unlike a streetlight) it undid the moths,
(unlike a porchlight) anywhere was home,
(unlike a star) it couldn't be our scale.
In utter darkness we were halfway down.

Then came the age of lacklight, loss of measure,
darkness turned inside to cast a darkness
on itself. Though 'age' would make it finite.
Perhaps we're stuck there, straining in the lacklight.

Still, across the last however long,
I've noticed something budding, vaguely sensed
a nerve untie and reconnect itself.
I think my lacklight eye is almost open.


He trepans with the blunt
screwdriver on his penknife:
unripe figs require the touch
of air on flesh to sweeten.
Blind, but in his fingertips
he has the whole knot
of this figtree memorised.

The five-inch scar, a vague
felt mesh of parallelogram,
was where he bandaged up
a split branch once.
He starts from there,
first handheight fruit
and then he gets the ladder.

Gauge weight, turn, unturn.
He sings beneath his breath
about the excellence of figs,
their mellowness,
their skin-dints
like the perfect undulation
in the small of his wife's back.


Acorns under earth a year
leach bitterness and blacken,
go well raw or roasted.

Our hotel
resorts to Davy lamps.
The bar taps and the TVs stop.

Ground acorns steep in boiled water.
This is changed each day.
They're edible when it runs clear.

The snow is doorframe-deep.
All loans of snowshoes, snow shovels and skis
require a credit card deposit.

Acorn bread is wrapped in amole leaf
then placed among
an 'oven' of hot stones.

All vehicles without tyre chains
will not be towed.
You must return for them in spring.


The expedition's jinx, breaker of vacuum jars
and laptop hinges, near whom
every drillbit sheared
and every ice core rose contaminated with brown kerosene
and every guyline was a trip hazard,

who threw precision widgets on the fritz
merely by walking past them,
in whose presence the supply plane
overshot the runway – twice – and when unloading
dropped the kilo jar of honey, August's luxury –

that schmuck – secured his funding for another year.
There's barley vodka chilling
in the ice-cairn. On the iPod something slow and sad
does battle with the katabatic wind
the battery-life of all our kit gets drained by.


Was it somewhere near Salinas Kris let Bobby
slip away, or somewhere miscellaneous?

Oxford '61, say – Kris watched Auden lecture,
boxed for Merton, carpooled with the young Morse.

On the train to Carmen's party, A. explained
why undead was an oxymoron.

I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red
– was that Kris's word for harp

(harmonica) or hypo?
Not a trade name, though the first

harmonicas were marketed as aeolians.
Sing, breeze, blow it soft against the river –

as Auden bungs a notebook in the Cherwell,
as a frogman rises with the Saxon buckle,

as the punt squirms, Kris blinks, Bobby vanishes –
as Carmen butterflies into the Thames

off Port Meadow,
the smoulder finds the fringe of kindling

beneath our scrappy bbq, and kicks in
like the drums on 'Shipwrecked in the Eighties'.


Her tracking microchip's
a rhythmic prickle,
into a migraine
after thunderstorms

or when the herd slips under
the invisible
of a cellphone tower
posing as a bristlecone.


Moss DMs
An owlbear
Out of nowhere
Roll initiative

In an imaginary valley
Moss DMs
Reroll initiative

An owlbear
Out of loneliness
DMs its own

Rolls initiative
Against itself

A lady wizard
Waiting on a plateau

Moss DMs
Dice crackle
In the cup
Her turn expires

Roll initiative
The owlbear
In the rockrose


I mounted on horseback, and with a few military officers
and the Captains Francisco Lucero de Godoy and Roque Madrid,
went to inspect the chapel or hermitage
which was used as a parish church
by the Mexican Indians living in this villa
under the title of the invocation
of their patron, the Archangel San Michael:
and having made the inspection, though small in dimensions
and not sufficient for the accommodation of a great number

nevertheless, on account of said
inclemency of the weather and the urgent necessity
for a church in which might be celebrated
the Divine Office and Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
recognised that it would be expedient and proper
to roof said walls
and whitewash and repair its skylights;
said parties alluded to being present,
and said governors of the aforesaid pueblos, Josèph and Antonio Bolsas,

I commanded that they should send natives
having made measurements in respect of timbers,
and having offered them axes and mules for its prompt transportation
that those who were accustomed to hewing said timbers might do so,
and that those who were fit for the mason's trade
in repairing said walls
should be ordered in like manner, and that I
on my part would have the Spaniards whom I had with me
assist me thereat.


Tipped embers skitter down the frozen Cam.
A porter peels back his glove to blow in it.
The moon rides low above the Cavendish
on Free School Lane, and Treason, inconceivable
Elizabethan stage machinery, is stalking
through the empty Hall (a glass pops
on the draining board), through Whewell's Court
and through Blunt's dream: the absolutely
even path down to the water, walled
farm-fort reflected in unruffled calm:
an offer, that was how it hung, deliberately
out of reach. (Ice grates against the Backs.)
As Treason passes through Poussin's foreground
he doesn't scare the goats, he barely dents the lake.


Hard to imagine
sleek except where she's
been drawn back
to the sleek bone.

Scuzzy, says the daughter
of the man who stopped
to see what we
were standing round.

It fits the mottle:
working camo
scuzzying her outline
must have been what killed her.

of the blown gut
shimmers, overblooming
on the tarmac.

Her expression
fluctuates, depending
on the angle
which you read it from.

The narrowest surprise
shades into (are you
sure?) this sudden, massive joy.


Stalk pedantically among the thick
cork forest of the copy text – it's tone
which flummoxes; the lynx
that almost sprung the camera trap
slunk off, and in this weirdly Englished
Ibn Hamdis Lions people the official wood.

As well they might. Proofreading
someone's hurtling thesis
where they had 'port pilferer'
I made it 'harbour lowlife', saw
the joy recede as sense ebbed in.
It's that I worry at, and find I can't correct.


for Gareth Reeves

What was it that they'd sprayed the citrus with,
those twelve formation cropdusters?

The radio advised a wet towel in the windowframe.
Police trucks loudhailered through Berkeley Stay indoors.

He didn't stop to ask but held one breath
down forty miles of freeway into Davis,

fog encrusted underneath his windscreenwiper blade,
a brittle salmon froth, and in the wheelrims.

The thrips kicked on the orange trees
and may have satisfactorily popped.

Some poems he was writing
have that thrip kick bit, acutely insect scutter:

our talk (aeons later) swung round
to their strange distracted blurb from Szirtes,

'full of sharp discreet vignettes
that mount like evidence' – or had it been discrete?

To me that first book's drawn-out California.
Anecdote is contour

somewhere one's not been.
Thrip-blind, we hug our leaf and burrow in and in.

What was the name of that insecticide?
Six syllables put by, the one breath

held for forty years
until the wind changed?


G. S. Fraser grousing about Empson's voice,
'odd, sad, snarly, rising now and again
to a very high pitch, the Cambridge voice
of the 1920s' – Bloomsbury's run-out groove.

Ten minutes late for work, I listen
to a string quartet tune up in someone's
living room on Thornhaugh Street.
Nearby, the architecture bows and scrapes,

The University of London here
expresses its sincere regret for this extension,
undertaken without the permission or the knowledge
of the Russell Family, who at no stage were consulted

When Woolf says that human nature
changed completely in December 1910

I distrust her, but maybe it changed twice.
The violin, sad, snarled, uncurls its Cambridge voice.


Djinns trapped inside a mirage
they are waiting for the gods to reinhabit,

which will turn this
rampart dissipating in the rump of noon

to solid crystal.
Here the only factual crenellations

are the castle-caravans
of lizard armour. Creak and drag.

Here even dunes creak,
and the lizard uses this to navigate.

The dune-creak is the note
djinn squawks to djinn, its fizzy maydays half made-out.

They squawk at you in case you are the gods returning.
It is night now you must navigate.


(Drosophila melanogaster)

This is the long way through the fly.
The shortest route is via A.'s
incision down the body wall,
hinging the larva, which adheres
to glass the way that lips adhere
to glass, a bit. It grins. It's pinned
apart with lab-grown cactus spines.

And drawing out this scrawl of gut
the nib is superfine, the path
is sloshed but not quite purposeless:
a rift not loaded yet with ore,
a hesitation mark to check
the ink. You blink. You breathe in deep
and scratch your name above the line.


The existing monuments form an ideal order.
I can see right through the ground floor sash windows
of 66–70, John Nash's first
mature commission, into Montague Street.
Cameramen were out this morning
building continuity
for Idris Elba's action flick
from nothing, from the corner of a phonebox,
filaments of plane tree streaming in the sunlight –
do the leaves come shrink-wrapped?
All I have to do today's
re-alphabetise Fiction. Two gents browse.
I know that if they've questions I can field them.
I know that when the shelves are tight
there's certain books the other books bend back to find room for.


Bat twangs to beam and speeds there.
In the Langmuir Lightning Lab
a late technician clocks Socorro's
afterglow on Photoshop, a shim
between the desert and the desert
skyline, masks it with a click
and must repeat for the entire album.

Lightning pinioned
against the screen has an heraldic
lion look. (Hers is the last car
outside. Bat screams into bat.)
Who'd work with this, its bounce,
its hurled fragility, she doesn't think
but goes right through, perfecting every shot.

THE LONG 1850s

Christmas Eve the hoss
died under him it started
snowing thick he made short
shift face first inter the
yawp a toppled pine had left

down scrabbled deep dirt
shoulder-width long stretch then
broadens & he's room to breathe –
lies back pats round to
orient himself in dark

queer thing by touch it's
like he's unnaneath a bed
backweave of sackcloth
heavy mattress shifting when
he hears the knock

stays beam stiff
knock goes on like bailiff
till he twigs he's
restin broadways on the bear
ear on the bear's heart

wintering in quarter-time
the cub he figures
unstuck from the tit
& suffocated when she
swills a real gulp of air

all restless like he
has a trick to drowsy her
he drinks deep from that tap
himself says later in that
milk he tasted forest as a process

May's green blister in
September's berry
shoot soil white ash
firestorm and lightning
fish and stream and portion

of the stream inside the fish
and through it
as an aftertaste
me riding and the pouch
of air I whistled with

The bear was sleepier
He yanked a root
sucked once to start the
pressure going
tied it pinch-tight round the nipple

that put her to dreaming proper
backt out found the weather
lifting and his strength
redoubled so he hefted
up the hoss onto his shoulders, walked

to where the ground was soft
enough to dig a grave
that's it about
tho an acquaintance
8 months later

passed the same spot
said the pine
had sprouted berries
big as grapes and white
he said from all the milk it suckled


'the sort of poetry Geoffrey Hill, with his customary astringency,
has labelled "home movies"'

Zapruder, when he tried to sleep
could not unfixate
on that frame

where the apricot
over the President's forehead –
how did that get there? –

pulsed outward.
He dreamt of it hanging

exploded, a billboard
in Times Square,
his own

two thumbs up
like the man from Del Monte.
He dreamt that the tricky glint under the grass

had resolved itself into
a second camera,
one pointed right at him.


Excerpted from Holy Toledo! by John Clegg. Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Wainwright. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

What Must Happen 09


Antiquarium 13

Etruria Hall 14

Dirt 15

China Cabinet 16

Homus Economicus 17

Going Global 18

The Prims 19

Manchukuo 20

Sunday Afternoon 24

Agricola 26

These Things 36

Predictable Days 40

Passing 41

Shadding In 42

Self-Portrait 43

An Empty Street 44

A Nearly Empty Street 53

Clouds 62

My Childhood 65

On the grass 66

Both Sides 68

To J.D 69

The Immortals

Jupiter 79

Venus 80

Apollo 82

To Himself 85

Acknowledgements 87

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