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The Promise Clinic

The Promise Clinic by Robert Saxton

First collection published by Enitharmon 1994

The Promise Clinic

Blurb from the book cover, quoted from Peter Forbes, former editor of Poetry Review:

‘Robert Saxton writes the best sestinas and villanelles since Auden -- menacing but insidiously entertaining -- and his imagination stretches out in playful fantasies involving Lawn Aerator Sandals, The Life of the Slug and The Farmyard Crocodile. His characteristic note is a version of the pastoral in which things jog along pleasantly in benign-bizarre mode, until darker realities intrude: “We’re munching zeds, in fours, with a wry spark/ And crackle, snoring quietly ... the first transistors dreaming of the park.” (‘Radio Ga-Ga’). Here is wit of a high order, and a poem like ‘A Motel Room Near St Austell’ fuses wit and feeling in an uncannily Eliotic manner:

And to such flickering one is drawn
Like hand to fur, or cup to lip.
Where I had meant to smooth, I scare,
And drown where she had thought to sip.’

Peter Forbes

* indicates poems that are published below (after the Contents), both copyright Robert Saxton 2007

Caveat Emptor


The Rainy Season
High Becquerel Farm
River Red with Berries
The Alligator Hotel


Esperanto Spoken
White Water
Wrong Holiday
A Motel Room Near St Austell
A Malachite Egg
Blind Love
The Makeshifter Calls*
Devil’s Prothalamion
Mirror Friends
Thousand-Island Dressing
Brent Geese at Pagham Harbour
A Farmhouse Interior
The Night of Invincible Hail
Away From It All
Lawn Aerator Sandals
The Promise Clinic


The Angel Roof*
A Drink in a Country Churchyard
Stoning Byron’s Ghost
The Stunted Oakwood
The Life of the Slug
Esperanto Nights
The Age of Chivalry
The Café-Bookshop
Remembrance Day
The Life of the Salmon
The Shingled Roof
The Lighthouse
Fish Christmas
Radio Ga-Ga
Warning from the Bookmark Council
Animals in Architecture
The Farmyard Crocodile
Treasure Island
The Manatee and the Dugong
Wild Food
A Landscape

Two poems from The Promise Clinic:


He was an hour late
and that was an hour of worry.
Nothing was going right
and no one was even saying sorry.

Everything was makeshift, unreliable,
as I’d explained to my GP,
whose Freudian face and lovely surgery
(Victorian globe, leather books, serpentine couch)
had made me think, naively, he might be of some use to me.

So I’d looked in the Yellow Pages
and chosen the largest, most pictorial ad,
a firm with three telephone numbers and the prefix Euro-.
We never close, all credit cards taken, it said.

He turned up at the same time
As my notorious on-the-run lover.
His leather case was scarred like a favourite toy
and smeared with butter from his previous call
where he’d amiably plonked it on the tea table,
over the muffins, before pulling out
all his little springs you attach yourself to the future by.


Blythburgh 1644

Above our heads, moored in their plash
Of stars, apart,
Unregarded, watching us strain
At the massive vehicle of our faith
Stuck in the years of change,
The angels rode.

We argued. We were confused. Hearts liquid
With fear. An old man
Caught with beads by his bed
Was sentenced to beating hemp for a month.
Many whispered the old language
Under the new.

Each ship that hove into view
Seemed larger
Than the last. Our shrunken harbour yearned
for salt. Some families found help
In worm-eaten books hidden
Beneath their floors.

One day a small ship touched our shores,
Landing horses and men.
We had to pay to have our own brass removed.
Gunsmoke possessed the slanting
Broken light. They proffered
Mock courtesies,

Uttering deliberate gibberish.
Suddenly the angels
Looked pained, pitiful, and the moment before
The bullets rattled home
Turned, some said, to wood; others,
To flesh and bone.

To buy a copy of The Promise Clinic, please contact the author using the Contact Form. Copies will be charged at £4 each, plus postage.

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