Wild Court

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

Three poems by Daniel Bennett


    Figures in a Landscape


Remember when the country
offered a pathway to freedom?
The creek lanes and brooks
and railway arches, spaces
we filled with imagination
and talk. Often talk. Abroad
along the edges of wheat fields
and rural car parks, any escape
from our essentially loving
households, where indulgence
stuck to us like burrs. Sites
for cigarettes, or cheap whisky
tasting of copper and blood,
amongst denuded trees, hairy
and stark against the lucid cloud.
Or the wilder nights, to hallucinate
an ocean in place of a sky,
a volcano in a sunrise, the fine
phantasmagoria of a storm
rupturing high summer. Now,
secluded from nature in a series
of white rooms, I miss those days
of geographical immanence.
Trying to outline the wonder
of bright moonlight hotwired
into a vortex of oak branches,
lotus eaters with summer jobs.
The frozen lake we dared
each other to cross in the height
of midwinter, only to flinch
at that hotheaded recklessness
years past, years gone, the water
running free and wild, the evenings
adrift in the pine forest,
the cedar perfume I smell
on Christmas trees, or trace
in the synthetic sweetness
of the sullen sweet air fresheners
of my imprisonment and doom.


    Two Days in the Valley


Cinema is a kind of drug,
hypnotic, indispensable,
filling the gaps in our lives.
I still recall the trip I made
to another town, to watch
some snarky interplay
of genres: the wisecracks
psychopaths, the charms
of Reseda, the kind of film
the French might regard,
for its perfect Americana.
I was desperate to flee
the last British Sunday
I remember, still at home
starting work, childhood
edging into a grudging
responsibility, as I emerged
from a long dream of
freedom: lovelorn, hopeless,
miserable even to myself.
For two hours I dreamed
beyond that futile autumn,
far beyond the walkways
of a new town multiplex
the smell of popcorn grease,
the long knives of rain water
across a neglected car park
the tangle of underpasses
and roundabouts, magpies
chanting sorrow and joy
across the central divide.
Later, as a man opposite
listened to football scores
on the train home, I wondered
if a town that loses its cinema,
loses its capacity to dream,
and when I would stretch
and wake towards the world.




We met at work. A bottle shop in midwinter,
where junkies filched preserved cherries,
and our prodigal years went to die
pickled in spoiled wine. We aged

inside those walls, learning bookkeeping
and larceny, while Camden Town
sank into the cold. He was a prince
on the minimum wage. An actor’s poise.

I'd heard the story: how he’d charmed himself
into the house of a famous journalist
to cook roast peppers served with Zinfandel,
and lectured on the grape’s journey

from Croatia across the heel of Italy.
His favourite wine was a dirt-cheap Moscato
pale, light and slightly spritzed.
‘The only wine that tastes of grapes,’ he told me.

‘You can drink it at any time of the day.’
On the night he left, we necked Albarino
from the bottle, as he told me
of his novelist father, and the only time

I ever saw him lose that insouciance
was when he warned me about the cost
of these ventures, how they grew rancid,
spoiled. Later, back in the old place,

I knew what he meant. He was my first customer,
and, of course, he was buying Moscato.
He laughed, threw his arms around me,
drunk on our failure, the long joke of those years.