"the courage to be repulsive"
Fragments after Claude Cahun
lifeless living. a wolf, crying. long-legged literalists. art redefined as ant-farm, as powdered milk, as a mildly white baby. keep slouching towards bethlehem, cattle to the car. there were boots on the ground, only worse: a cold, procedural wind from the west, bodies in the bay. so many wincing informers.
campaign puritans. the wreck of those fire-mantled armies, kids pleading the price of bread. the neighbours talk, the churches take dictation. our father, as if care could make the dead care. the greenwood rectified by fire, the righted island, sweet and hungry. fire, dear friends, your hedges are burning, carry the news to your mountain: the world is alight. a lie. meet november roaring and with earnest games, november scrawled in our mockingbird journals. this feeling folds reprieve and loss
so tenderly, my hand in yours. your skin smells lightly of rust. the world is full of men, loafing and pining. husbands, those dismal buddies of whom we shall never be free. refigure the week for work, for sesame! tasks in headscarves. the wavering past, each passing wave, this very velvet circling. love – a smoother ache on horseback fleeing.
the evil that men do, a manhole phrase meaning not very much. you are my captain, amid solar flares and sextants returning. we will know. old women have bodies too: my body, the thinking shape of flame.
statue by the lake of perseus and medusa. the and is wrong. me, a name i call myself, the status of a severed head. with men the and is always wrong. these twilights fade us form. i hang from his fist by my hair. i balance his wrist like a flacon, so.
his mind is a tundra of green baize. sparring hawks, scattered clouds, gentle fires. women, witless and effacing. my bulletproof failures. i cannot meet the eyes of country wives. i meet instead the sea in its most stilling cold. gulls traverse her black ascent like pale white flowers, like laundered weeds.
graffiti on the beach: jesus death visit! repent.org. some double-you, double-you, double-you dot.
i might blow away in this wind, a cordless leaf. elliptical exchanges on the hermit-side of the bay. death is a driftwood shack, a chalky wall, samphire, tzomplantli, shadows lengthening. legend. where the salt-water hobo died. contemplate scoria, abyssal gravel, the solstice straying over an empty cove. i too am pumice, hollowed by heat and a volatile air underground. thrown toward crossroads, when the sky was shuttered, the sea wall chases its concrete tail. lip sucked shrewd, reconnaissance. take aim at a numb hotel, point yourself at a stewed tea, the hard, same-seeming day, daggers drawn. there's a signal, lost between bands: the present, the past. and nobody screams fuck off back to antioch, with my gold, dissenting epithets. these beggars' nettles cling to me. the future is a mud sun rising over this beach forever, a creature in reverb, in recoil, in angular withdrawal across the shingle and the sand.
i am happy, do not laugh. cormorant, a fisher of returns, returns, and the lustred oil of her, a small wonder against the light. i carry this second face inside of me, this piqued escapist rose, and into even the bone-shaving dark when continents take cloak and coins turn their frightful profiles towards the wanting realm. small abacus of war, totting us to kissing figures. your name slides down my tongue like a knot in a rope.
dragging my cancelled voice, my great impediment. a man walks into a bar, but it isn't a bar, and it isn't a man.
through slackened strangers, the dregs of their regard guttering in glasses. his voice like a german uppercut. buzz of voices: a spider's web, a static attractor. the forensic embrace of gun emplacements. battlements, historic scare-quotes frame a nation. they say their parade, these men, are always saying, and the seething eerie, their eyrie of flags.
little land of ports and zones, proletarian spoils, a political grief. soldiers, that choir of gagging nerve. infantry of gaudy quickness crushed, that bonhomie walked into windfall, a quivering field. little land, moon-moulded, mouthed to an embarrassment of battlefields. their boys come back as monuments, their stone eyes not vacant but averted. yet i am happy, and the pale zodiacs of my grief are soluble in distance. in sunburn and desire.
Dr Fran Lock is a some-time itinerant dog whisperer, the author of seven poetry collections and of numerous chapbooks, including Hyena! Jackal! Dog!, which was published by Pamenar Press last year, and Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019). She has recently completed her Ph.D. at Birkbeck College, University of London, titled, "Impossible Telling and the Epistolary Form: Contemporary Poetry, Mourning and Trauma". She is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters.