Ascent of the Blessed
After Hieronymus Bosch
Hovering a hundred feet over an ambulance
in the starless dark, they congregate.
Below: a machine frantic to restart my heart.
My silver cord stretches, doesn’t quite snap.
I look down on the mad scurry:
whatever I am is not my body.
A presence beckons, makes it all seem like a painting.
I forget the paramedics massaging my cardiac muscle.
Are those seraphs? How do they levitate?
I can’t tell if they’re drugged or lulled.
I can’t tell if that’s bliss on their faces
or gapes of protest. Do we have a choice?
Perhaps this corridor is a vulva in reverse.
Perhaps the womb is a two-way door.
Beyond thought: no stopping-off point.
I look closer at the craquelure, and say this is art.
Patrick Wright is a poet and critic. He has a poetry collection, Full Sight Of Her (2020), and a pamphlet, Nullaby (2017). Both books are published by Eyewear.
the track has changed.
the melancholy of its spine,
the rattle of its dust, the verge
of succulents and scented bush
i once, naively, tied to my heart
and vowed to share with you:
i would convert you yet; i would
bind you to this landscape like salt,
i said. i would teach you
to recognise the smell of water
as it tails the stains of old earth
and then – soon – you would
no longer believe in thirst.
now shame has headed me off,
and shifted the signs,
and nothing familiar shows. i try
to make my way across borders
to locate the remains of the path
(an unemotive, adult punishment)
and i look to see the shelter i know
should be there – an arched overhang
rimming with red dancers, yolked
bodies and manes, and smears of fat
from handprints killing time –
but cannot find it. you would
say i needed a map, or worse,
that i should not have come back;
you would say: let us not go there
again. the dry heat on the plain
beneath the escarpment
shimmers into the distance,
an immeasurable flock of fish
beating at the ground, briefly
airborne, briefly hopeful; death
comes, harshly, with drought.
seated, i chart the outline of the ridges
either side of me; i reread
the disappointment of erosion
to annul the temptation
of walking further, and cast
my eyes at the half-formed track
home – a bruised inventory
of my many murders; my countless
small suicides. it seems i must
slaughter my juvenilia here, at the altar
of poor judgement, where the record
of our life together trails back
along the edge of a vast fiction.
before turning, i watch
as a vein hitched to the sun
bleeds out to grease the horizon
with the coming of dusk.
Marcelle Olivier is a poet and archaeologist. She has been listed for the National Poetry Competition and Bridport Poetry and Flash Fiction Prizes, and her translations of contemporary South African poetry can be found in In a burning sea (Protea, 2015). You can read more of her writing here at Ink, Sweat & Tears, and in, amongst others, Oxford Poetry and New Contrast. She lives in Cambridge.
Small Warm-up Gig
Some dreams hold on too tight.
Forget the yellow staircase going nowhere,
the one where I dreamt you both died,
dream it’s going to be all right
despite everything. That day at work,
we’re shelving crime fiction while he talks:
They’re playing tonight at the 100 Club. Really.
To let it bleed, to sweat, to drink, to not go home,
smudgy it’s only rock and roll stamped on my wrist —
I could have danced myself out of myself,
I could have stayed awake all night.
Ruth Higgins is a Dreamer. She’s also a member of Chiltern Poets and Ver Poets.
A Sister’s 13 Bullets of Love
In the end, I was just chicken wings in the trash
because of my brother, his eyes a blinking flash
of madness my nights waking to his wet laughter
with words passed down by God he will kill my daughter.
Doctors would say try these pills in their roulette game
of guess what. They never held him, never made him sane.
Light a match watch a mangled mind break a brittle
law meant to save us all. You tell me I am brutal.
I know choice is a dog barking in a waiting room.
All we had was ‘there/there’, then ‘there’ became
me knowing a gun is heavier than a heart –
Made it lighter for my brother, wrapped him up in tarp.
You ask me why thirteen bullets. Why is what I live with.
No mother brother daughter, a kin without worth.
Peter Raynard is editor of Proletarian Poetry (www.proletarianpoetry.com). His books of poetry are: Precarious (Smokestack Books, 2018) and The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto (Culture Matters, 2018). Rumbled will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2022.