by Frances Leviston

In the poky attic
bedroom a bit-broken
cocktail umbrella
made of blonde toothpicks
and crêpe paper
printed with bamboo
stands proud of a shut
paperback book

on the tallest shelf –
a shiny edition
of Hamlet or Othello,
incidental not symbolic –
downcasting its tiny
disc of shade
under the damp skylight.
You’d miss it at first

then find it garish,
a finch in the Dolomites
glued to a tree,
trembling in the noonday
blaze to be found
by the bird-catcher,
pickled and crunched.

Somebody sentimental
kept it
close after dinner
in a Japanese restaurant
decorated just
like a joke about Japan –
waitress in kimono,
walls hung with ideograms,

an indoor pool
where fat gold carp
drift under a wooden bridge,
drifted, never swam . . .
Well, but what
is sentiment? Emotion
out of time
with its occasion?

Pocketed, then
with a flourish produced
right in the middle
of an argument, there it stands:
a wish-coin welded
to the tiles of a fountain,
a green anachronistic
needle in the head.

Disinformation'A Token' is published in Frances Leviston's new collection, Disinformation, out on 12 February. There are a few tickets left for the launch party of the collection at the LRB Bookshop on Friday, 6 February – get yours here for free before they all go!

Cocktail umbrella photograph © Quinn Dombrowski /

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