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Wayne Holloway-Smith: a poem

The air itself

inside the tiny, inside the candy-coloured theatre,

open to the beachfront, sweet to the retina,

and wriggling, you might say, in the palaver of its excess,

is suddenly still as the found-out devil,

it's a drunk man discovered by the frightening silence of morning,

or it's a sneaking crocodile caught with a sausage in its muzzle,

or it's the reality of silence – that part of a child's face

when its ice cream slips from the cone. It's trapped, the air is,

as perpetual rudeness is trapped in the dead slap

of a flat stick, the very second it's rapped, the exact

second it's given to the head of its pinstriped, its pinnied victim – oh Judy!

– and it's staid, like the violence of a tossed-up baby,

or a shadow, the mournful shadow of a man –

its penumbra of bent nose and sticky-out chin – slow-rocking

and almost kazoo-like in its shrill and don't-blame-me fauna,

while respectable mothers do pick up their infants,

while husbands do throw an implicit arm over the wife's shoulder,

as grandparents, swathed in sun cream, do ease their deckchairs shut

and everything just sort of creeps soft and backwards,

as the sea creeps, in out-roads of awkwardness.

It's whispering, the air is, as the sand here might whisper:

I don't like it any more, please, for God's sake, take me with you.

"The air is" comes from Alarum. (Bloodaxe Books, 2017) Wayne Holloway-Smith's first poetry publication was the pamphlet Beloved, in case you’ve been wondering, published by Donut Press in 2011. His first book-length collection, Alarum, was a Poetry Book Society Wildcard Choice for Winter 2017 and was shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018 and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for the First Full Collection in 2018. His second full-length collection, Love minus Love, was shortlisted for the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize as well as being a Poetry Book Society Wild Card choice. He is also a lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing in the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire.

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