Malcolm Starke Died Today

Malcolm Starke died today

who rang us most nights

so late that it could only be him.

He’d been there forever

sinking audible coins

into the payphone at the flats

where he was watchman

and they tried to fire him once

for being sockless.

Greeting me with Alasdair’s name

or him with mine

he would catch us on the line

and in a voice of infuriating softness

tell us about Turkey

the times he went to Turkey

and the National Gallery

which is on Trafalgar Square.

We’d lurch and charge around

in absolute quiet

sometimes laying the receiver on a chair,

drawing long daggers into our hearts

cocking our necks on invisible rope

slashing our throats with giant swords

bellowing fuck off with our huge silent teeth.

For birthdays he knew us apart

and on scraps of scissored foolscap

drew us into trains and carriages

drew us in turbans and pyjamas

drew us Turkish, presumably.

No likeness at all, covered in tipex,

I kept them all. I have every one.

They were always two days early

never the same

he’d never met either of us.

But you knew him at university.

You kept inviting him round

after he was arrested

for talking to girls and embarrassing people.

And though you sometimes seemed

the least patient of us three,

though you’d thank us when

we’d told him you weren’t at home,

you raised us in a house where

Malcolm Starke might ring at any moment,

where he was never far away

and he was ours.

He felt that nuclear waste

could be disposed of

by firing it into the sun.

He felt that a sinister committee

had taken remote control

of his valuable brain.

That sometimes they didn’t

‘play fair’

with him.

He felt that, behind all this,

was the Duke of Edinburgh,

that in the end the Duke of Edinburgh

would torture him to death.

You knew all this, and told us,

and now you are the one

looking for his father

that had him an a loony bin

for however many years,

to tell him Malcolm Starke died today,

because like a fat mad bell

you let him ring.

The one time I did meet him,

at the mongrel Greek cafe on Turnham Green

He was so fat, so glad to see you,

sat beside a whole stack of finished paintings

having a waiter hold them up to show you,

while his soft voice declared

this one is good I think

this one is rather good, I think.

Kit Buchan has a poem in the second issue of The White Review. To buy click here.


is a poet, trumpeter and film critic. He lives in Paris, where he works as a freelance journalist.



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