Issue 30: Peter Manson

rhomboidal dirge

old dirty jazz-band i met you first as a symbol

for day’s ascent into deep-fried negative headspace

as móre píss falls through this into the night and meaning

takes angry flight to shut the door on the gravest ones

who hold it still as eyes in death’s ironic orbit

crowded as that would be now we’ve found the will to live

speak for your plurable self i’ve never felt damper

here in the scottish government resilience room

conservative surgery dervishes in the mood

to salute the backstop boys with an earnest hello

promote me to the saudi arabia of wind

faintly dismissive of the work but unsatisfied

by all but the most hyperbolical praise of it




papal retaining wall


amorous mcmonagle died of a gastritis

in curly hill strabane in 1871

in which parish he had an illegal daughter ann

and was probably a mistranscription of andrew

are those the shears of atropos or are they just shears

on the grave of the weaver george who died in august

swifter than a shuttle my days have passed and vanished

my crew and i were alive when we hit the water

how is it possible that i don’t know it’s over

this pearl onto which an oyster is secreting grit

i repeat the trope as two different kinds of farce

call off my cage fight in anhedonic carnoustie

and flee polynesia land of five million knees



extrapyramidal orchid

i dream about air raids because not enough is wrong

with my life and its live-long passenger-side airbag

bearing the imprint of all my beloved faces

for limerence read liberace and vice versa

i cannot set the pipeline to the recording state

as hope is the featherless biped tonight on sky

burial note the key-patterning on the anus

the oil in the dolphin’s melon the moorhen hormones

which put us in hope we should soon have the manson wind

i fell ill with conjunctivitis and overdubs

while toasting ann widdecombe making p diddy come

as mourning becomes treacle ejecting the fine mess

anyone leaves when they don’t know they aren’t coming back





rubber hand illusion


i think of my large small body as what will damage

the largely valueless objects i leave behind me

as i hasten to create and consume a pizza

in time to watch your memorial event on zoom

each male in the room has my willow-pattern baldness

i try on one blue body after another and

soon you are mourned by a full pew of prosthetic mes

i’m sorry you’re dead and sorry i never told you

how i hated being implicated in your gaze

i take the mirtazapine and of course start writing

instead of going to bed like a normal poet

the poem hates itself for being like this and i

push back the cuticles on my teeth to say goodnight



Sentimental promenade


                                             from Verlaine


The setting sun was darting its last rays

and the wind was rocking the pallid water-lilies;

the great water-lilies, between the reeds,

were shining sadly upon the calm waters.

Me, I was wandering alone, taking my wound for a walk

along the pond, in the middle of the willow plantation

where the vague mist was conjuring a great

milky phantom in despair

and weeping with the voice of the teals

who were calling and recalling, beating wings

in the middle of the willow plantation where I was wandering alone

taking my wound for a walk; and the thick shroud

of darkness came to drown the last

rays of the setting sun in these pallid waves

and the water-lilies, in the middle of the reeds,

great water-lilies upon the calm waters.



                     to Francis Poictevin

                     from Verlaine


The long wood of fir trees twists up to the shore,

the narrow wood of fir trees, laurel and pine,

with the neighbouring town disguised as a village:

red chalets scattered in the greenery

and the white villas of the bathing stations.


The sombre wood descends from a plateau of heather,

comes and goes, forms a valley, then climbs green and black

and descends again as a fine thicket into which light

filters and gilds the obscure sleep of the cemetery

laid out in rows, cradled by a vague nonchalance.


On the left the heavy tower (it awaits a steeple)

rises of a church invisible from here;

the very distant landing stage; the tower is tall, and dry:

it is truly Anglicanism, authoritarian and starchy,

lacking the heart’s flight towards heaven, too.


The weather is just the way I like it,

neither fog nor sun! the sun guessed-at,

anticipated, dancing from the dying fog to the very

heights of the sky that turns and flees, rose-cream;

the atmosphere is of pearl and the sea of faded gold.


From the Protestant tower there departs the song of a bell,

then two and three and four, and then eight at once,

instinctive harmony going step by step,

enthusiasm, joy, invitation, sorrow, reproach,

with gold, bronze and fire in its voice;


immense and most sweet sound heard by the long woods!

Music is not more beautiful. It comes

slowly over the singing sea and shakes everything,

as a road resounds under a marching army

in the echo caught by an advance-guard patrol.


The ringing of the bells is dead. A red trail

of great sobs pulsates and is extinguished over the sea,

the cold lightning of a new year’s sunset

stains with blood, over there, the town that is crowned

by falling night, and vibrates in the still-bright west.


The evening deepens. It is glacial. The landing stage

shivers and the backwash moans in its singing

wood, then falls heavily like a waterfall

in a rhythm brutal as the sullen boredom

that hammered my guilty days of long ago:


solitude of the heart in the soul’s emptiness,

the battle of the sea and the winter winds,

Pride vanquished, regretful, grumbling and berating,

and this night where a villainous ambush is on the prowl,

a scent of catastrophe, fore-taste of Hell!...


Here are three tintinabulations like three notes on a flute,

three more! another three! the forgotten Angelus

remembers, and now it says: Peace to these struggles!

The Word is made flesh to uplift your falls from grace,

a virgin has conceived, the world is forgiven!


Thus God speaks through the medium of his chapel

half way up the hill, on the right, on the edge of the woods...

O Rome, o Mother! Cry, gesture that recalls us

ceaselessly to the only happiness and gives to the rebellious

and sad heart the practical counsel of the Cross.


— The night is like velvet. The abandoned landing stage

silences by degrees its sound under the ebbing water.

A road, straight enough, happily mapped out,

guides almost to my door my hurried retreat

in this absolute night under the long mute woods.


January 1877.

Peter Manson Peter Manson lives in Glasgow. His books and pamphlets include Poems of Frank Rupture (Sancho Panza Press), Between Cup and Lip (Miami UP, Ohio) and Factitious Airs (Zarf). A collaboration with Mendoza, Windsuckers & Onsetters: SONNOTS for Griffiths, was published by Materials/Materialen. His translations include Stéphane Mallarmé: The Poems in Verse (Miami UP), Théophile Gautier: Darkness (self-published on Lulu) and Gérard de Nerval: Sonnets (Runamok Press). for more.

Copyright © 2023 by Peter Manson, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author