The Construction of the Tomahawk - poem by Peter Howard

The Construction of the Tomahawk

written by © Peter Howard;
awarded second prize in the Daily Telegraph / Arvon Poetry Competition 2000, also in collection Game Theory

I have put it about that he murders children
and colours his strawberry syrup with their crystallised blood,
that he beats his wife, then makes her dress as a man
before taking her in an unnatural manner.

I have talked to the candyfloss merchant and the manager
of the amusement arcade. They are sympathetic, but have little
in the way of practical advice. The fat, odious
burger franchisee has, I am certain, already been corrupted.

I have whispered to the men in the transport café
that the accident with the bikini bra and the overloaded vanilla cornet
will be re-enacted fortnightly at the hottest part of the day,
but not while he continues to steal my livelihood.

They listen intently and I see grey, cloudy plans
forming behind their dull eyes. But nothing ever transpires.

I have considered many things. I spend my evenings
with books and ideas. I am an expert on number theory,
the law of contract and tort, the practice of toxicology.
I know the construction of the tomahawk. I have downloaded
instructions for making a nuclear device from the world wide web.

It would be fair, would it not, for him to set up
halfway between the lifeboat station and the central pier,
for me to place my stand between the pier and the rocks.

So it starts, each morning. But he plays grandmother's footsteps,
encroaching on my shoal of sunburned flesh. And so I must do the same.
By mid-afternoon, when kids are dehydrated and fractious,
parents willing to bribe them with Solero or 99
we are back to back, pretending the other a mirage. We never speak.

I do not know where he lives, or the source of his supplies.
Every morning we arrive simultaneously,
from opposite directions, each with a full box.
But I have looked into the inventory of his wares
and know it to be the same as mine.

And I have looked into his eyes.