Hold yourself against the world quietly.
Answer the phone with a question yes?
Offer round cough drops. Keep accurate time,
but god, you know, the whole business…
You sometimes wonder, flitting notes
behind the desk, if a man too has a number,
if it’s yourself you’re testing between thumb
and finger, if cracking ice with the stern tip
of your umbrella or making sure your grip
is harder than the hand you’re shaking, if that
isn’t truly the fulcrum pin, the warhead manhood
flexes in. Quietly hold yourself. Don’t answer.
There is a fist in every pocket, an imp, greasy,
street-smart, clenched in each imperfection
and guys like you see them all as a warning,
as a thought about smashing your glasses.
Offer cough drops. Keep time accurate.
You sometimes wonder if being a man is
striding through trousers, opening doors saying
something very loudly. A real man
is turned from the roots of his knuckles,
is drawn squarely across his own nose
and you’re not even certain if your head
fits your hat! Will you stand for that?
I think it’s going to rain you say and it breaks
and the city widens, colours open in fresh lines.
The other men unpeg themselves in doubt.
You hold yourself quietly against the world.
This month's commissioned poem is by Jack Underwood, who has roped in a host of new and existing poems from his fellow writers on Faber's New Poet's scheme, and contributors to his occasional journal Stop Sharpening Your Knives. These people are among the country's best and most promising poetic talents and we are hella-chuffed to host them all here.