Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘A Quidam’: a poem by Steven Toussaint

A Quidam

I’d been casualised again, High Church
Assignations likely the cause. No free lunches.
Only fans. I let them watch me research
Latinity in poetry today. My hunch was

Quantity callously tugged us, like beads told
Or bowels, unravelled in the Grand Guignol
As we passed nights racked on Théophile Gautier’s fourfold:
Verse, onyx, marble, email.

But deep work is rare. Blue-tick tweets,
Unpunctuated blasts of colour commination
Predictive software autocompletes,
Run scathing play-by-play. Sustained vibration.

I felt the haptic signature but snoozed
Each notification. No screens in bed.
I picked the slenderest among the used
Biographies of Catholic, decadent dead

And read aloud until the jaundiced jokes got old,
Conversion once too often troped as exile.
I fell asleep to clapping, but then recalled
Applause defibrillated Tinker Bell.

In the nightmare, I was anti-Dreyfussard.
Vichyssoises snitches in Hell
Offered me their hands. I woke holding my own and hard
And flipped my pillow for the special chill.