Issue 31: Geoff Sawers

A Pound of You


Beating heart in a bone castle
a wasp held against your tongue
its spirit instills the letter, in old Venetian type
lemon on teal on deckle-edge paper
dancing over the crossing stones.

White wings divide your face
your name and serial number
daring the cold sump water
black-letter with tall sloped capitals
oak-gall cursive and goose-primary quills.

A spooked stallion tethered at all four feet
to the raft chained across
the distance between your eyes
and the weight of unwanted passion
shakes till it reaches the shore.

Raven-red on the marble page
cat-claws drawn back into the fur
I held the ink-slash of your name in a locket
at my neck and it stopped my heart
pressed like a nib into soft wet cotton.

It still sings in the night in its stall
the leaden punch of its hooves on stone
the gravel behind your eyes
on rain-dark capitals, your temples
where the ghost in the shell

packed with dirt like dung in a bell
echoes that high horse-song
rippling with fear as you rise
cold rain in my love-blind lights.
Murano glassmen keen into the blade-like night.

The sun sinks in an oil-brown mash
I trace your toe-prints on the beach
the calligraphy of the dance
justified by the water's edge
I've run out of leads to follow.

A hard smack of waves in my face
as my knees grind into the sand
neck held under the gasping surf
great thunder of metal on rollers
breaking over our crowns like slates or hearts in a storm.

In the Barrel Of Her Ribs


Carrying my daughter on my hip

we sink into a shallow lake thronged with lilies

there are lamps beneath the water, there's no time

my eyes are torches, steepled in hers

her hands: here's a church, here's a steeple

open it up and here is a swarm of bees

gathering in the blue-white light

give me flatness, and air

and the whisper under trees

serotonin haze clouds a circle

from my grandmother's tongue to hers

in crushed coral sands a pale marble Isis

painstakingly sucked out from the black peat

and every colour word in the book

should be printed in that colour, every bird

should be that bird and fly off the page

but as your eye reaches the word water

the ink washes away, at fire there is no book

my friends forgot me, I have no face

to blush when she calls my name

I feel her growing inside me, a numb place

at first and then one day another

a totem, a herm, a scaffold

wrapped round with ropes and thick with blood and honey

I Never Slept in Barry MacSweeney's Bed


but when I woke to the taste of rain

I thought of your tongue in the trees


your train as you passed, my past

if you woke to the sound of the snow


in the treetops imagine the shakedown

heavy with it, weighted with it


black crows broke loose in the tinny dawn

threads of rain bored through the low


trunks bent together and traced the blue veins

on your wrists traced the morning glow

Geoff Sawers' poetry books include Scissors Cut Rock (Flarestack, 2005), A Thames Bestiary (with Peter Hay, Two Rivers Press 2008) and To the Forgotten (with Giles Goodland, Goose Cathedral Press, 2014). He has new work out this year in Bookends, San Pedro River Review and the Times Literary Supplement. Born in 1966, he was only diagnosed as autistic in his fifties. He lives in Reading.

Copyright © 2023 by Geoff Sawers, 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