The Uses of Silk
The most effective combat underwear
is made of silk
in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone.
Among the petticoats of hill-farm women
silkworm pupae rode through centuries
of ice and snow in the southern alps
on the stride of a warm thigh,
until picked off into boiling water,
their corpses unwound from bandages
for bolts of rich cloth sold in the valleys.
A Chinese waistcoat of yellow spider silk
was five years’ labour for eighty people,
in glasshouses littered
with the sucked-out husks of bluebottles,
each spinner high-five to a man’s palm,
generations of golden orb spiders
spooling draglines of finery
stronger than the fiercest filament
dreamt of in modern war’s laboratories.
And now in khaki dustthe captain’s shouting
your front man is a blind man -
keep to the safe lane -
through a murder hole
so I want every fucker
thinking what they’re doing!
Young men with our English in their mouths,
dressed up by armour scientists
in military underwear,
in a shrapnel-catching net of silk,
the soft answer that turns away wrath.
What I meant, what he, she, we, you and they meant,
comes out skew-ways like sentences
bricked up one word at a time by beginners
dodging plagiarism with dictionary Lego,
in essays co-authored with Dada and Webster,
where equity is onerous and surmised, and bush craft
turns into shrub aptitudes (vital for survival).
Straight from the womb to a world of words and faces,
pulled towards a tone of voice, a look, a chosen phrase,
still we don’t quite translate into each other,
though we live until we die in the attempt,
putting it one way, then another, until aptitude
meets craft, and shrubs re-wild to aboriginal bush.