7 Days Remaining
Hannah Lowe

Thursday 5th
posted by Jody Porter in Arts

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter

If You Believe: One Pale Eye
Hannah Lowe

If you believe I met Chan Canasta in 1962
after hours in the cold at the stage door,  
Canasta sweeping through in his long black coat
as I called out Sir? Sir? and he turned
and loomed above me like a vampire,
you may as well believe any of the things
I dream about, watching his old TV shows –
the way he handled a deck of cards up close
(they couldn’t catch it with the camera)
like pulling a silk scarf through his fingers,
or the Slavic ghost in his voice, conducting
his guests to pick a card, or think of a card
but please ladies and gentlemen, keep it secret
or how he held them all in the corner
of one pale eye, and you knew somehow
he had read their minds. You may as well believe
that night we walked down by the canal
was the first of many times – the narrow boats  
in their carnival colours moored in the mist,
the smell of tar, and Chan not looking at me
but talking, talking, as though I was the first person
to ever ask him – of the family in Cracow
lost in the war, of the shaded roof garden
in Jerusalem where he had read book
after book on occultism and mesmerism
and practised his experiments –
if you have talent you must polish it until it glitters
and how he remade himself in Britain –
pilot, magician, English-Polish gentleman.
Was it the first light coming up
brought silence? We sat by the lock,
Chan pulling his cards from his pocket
and holding each one up to his lighter
until the flame spread and the symbols
and faces cindered, and he flung them out
across the dark still water, like firebirds.

Hannah Lowe's latest poetry collection is Chan (Bloodaxe, 2016).

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter (
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