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Samuel Tongue: a poem

Rauhnächte / Twelve Nights

Although times are thin, this time between the years

is the thinnest; a blue creak of snow, the lucky print

of the unlucky rabbit, and every branch ghosting itself.

I download a bird app to fill the snow-quiet with replicant

contact calls, to drown the buzz of Perchten, men dressed

in old animal skins and masks, howling up the roads

as thunderstruck demons. Ritual muddles us through the

inhuman seasons but these men make me suspicious, an excuse

to collapse wolf-man metaphors and take a mythopoetic shit

in the corner. I offer boiled-kettle libations for the stuck cars and

Dad is drinking again, blessing the cattle fodder with whisky. If

the animals speak will we hear what they're saying? I don't

wash the bedding or someone will die, like in the folk-tales

that smell of pine needles and wintered woodsmoke. Windows

must be opened like gun-hatches to freshen the spirits.

Sickness and blight, this has been a(nother) year of death,

formless and void. We wore our tight masks in the store,

hunkered down in the den of the living room, our TVs bright

as yule logs. I walked the flat with smoking sage and juniper twigs,

lit from an IKEA tealight. Practice is half the belief; the other

half an online forum of like-minded souls. Fog freezes

on the bird-feeders; the sunflower hearts like gravel. If an old woman

comes to my door, a song in her throat and a knife in her bag,

wolves prowling like metaphors around her feet, I'll refuse to listen. Chalk

the sandy lintels: Christus mansionem benedicat. But also give forty days'

notice of eviction. I hoped you would stay, but between the years a door

opens – we go through it, whether we would or no.

Samuel Tongue is a widely-published poet with a debut collection, Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel 2020), and two pamphlet collections: Stitch (Tapsalteerie, 2018) and Hauling-Out (Eyewear, 2016). A selection of poems is to be published in an Ukrainian translation by KROK in 2021. His work has been featured in journals and newspapers including And Other Poems, Butcher’s Dog, Blackbox Manifold, Envoi, Finished Creatures, Magma, Northwords Now, Gutter, The Herald, The Interpreter’s House, The Scotsman, The Compass and the anthologies Be The First to Like This: New Scottish Poetry (Vagabond Voices) and 100 Poems to Save the Earth (Seren). He is former poetry editor at The Glasgow Review of Books and works as project coordinator at the Scottish Poetry Library.


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