Issue 2: Benjamin Stainton

The Vagabond Age


The smoking farmhouse         disappears.


Once I return to the milky village,

     my teeth will be     dust.


I leave behind a litter of parts.

     There are no clouds.

Only the sound of boots on grass.



My new mouth waters

    along the banks of the Stour.

I'll walk so long they'll remove a bone.


The demonic scream severed my lobe.

No more leftovers     or slavery  

     with a drum. No more

        she said he said she said.

I comb the cornfield     for a key.


The Beggar's Arms inspects

    my clothes. A coat repaired  

        with gaffer tape. Blood

on the pale shirt-sleeves.

Can I afford your sisters?

Life is my best     worst enemy.


A night in the woods

    with moon-spittle for rain.

His breath creaks     the trees.

I administer Salvia under wet leaves.

The black forest     pins my throat.

Our sun is nowhere. Dead

      behind my bed.


After morning, comes evening

       and after midnight,  

          the dripping.

Villagers with coal     for eyes.

This is the bend of the world.

Over     the hill's nape,

    fate squats like a bullfrog,

        tongue     unrolled.


A deathly town grows

     in the valley. I harbour faith

        like a holy convict.

Shadows drip across my slum.

There is nothing so young

     as an idea: Go, wade

        to the gulf of sensation.

I am too ignorant to be found

    guilty     of anything.


Mist over the rookery fields

    at dawn. From my crest of salt

        I hold a finger to the feeble sun.

The university spires line up

    in arms like a watery painting

            of promises.    

Visions of toothless girls,

    peeling off their ruby socks 

linger, until one brown leaf     falls.

An inflamation     of the eye.


I will smoke the bone of this city.

A lava-flow of vanity

     erupts from the stony building.

The torrents and the bliss of life

        without hope.

Inside the lounge's din I glimmer

     a question to the lady's arm.

Lady     like a sweating room.

I am the ego     of the light.

 She fawns over

    my untouched hearth all night.


Liberty under a lampshade.

Pictures     of contorted men

    adorn her tiny body.

She browns me a round

    of toast. We sit on yellow chairs

        at a wooden table.

Two glasses. The poison works

    miracles. I am inside her heart,

         watching the pumps.

My head is a red helium balloon.

I knew this face     would disappear,

    the further I fell from home.


Money. Elusive as untroubled sleep.

On the rosy street, the wealthy

    cobble among us riff-raff.

My feet are so light I could hunt

    a hunter. Mr Whoever

        wanders out of the gloom

            into my blue beam.

The scene     is heated by fire

    beneath our soles. Violence.

I steal     his powdery essence.

Under the growl of failing bulbs,

    white assassins split     me open.

Left for dead and such a pleasure.


Waves of thunder     snarl

    over the husk of my lip.

I horizontally seep    salt and oil.

The doubting hotel bolts its door.

Seven stars     in the glass.

Seven candles in the basement

        with leaky floors.

God speaks. I have no seal

    on my forehead, God.


Peace blossoms     in a flood.

 The safe tappings of the woodcut

    knock     like homely birds.

There will be a bed in the trees,

    and all life will flow     from me.


The longest day warns us

    not to creep away.

 Under my poultice, a continent

        of pus    bubbles.  

We must not fall asleep.

 She gives me head by the window.

Morning     shuffles like a tramp

    on the vague pavement,

         paper bag     in fist.

Quidless, I chew my inner cheek

    until the cerise instinct

        bursts like a grape

            over her lips.

Hope drips     across the river.

    Where we are newborn.


Our godhead parts the waves' 

    hair. Sally, sally, sally.

On deck, we watch young

    limbs gladly     float  

       in the carnal sea.

A slender girl at the harbour

    smokes with endless     legs.

Ineffable lust. The hornet

         maddens inside my web.


Burning up like ravagers,

    with kinetic eyes

        we turncoat to taste the rising

metropolis, mouths    enlarged

         by unholiness. 

Words are fluid in this

    eternity.     Reinvented.


Only delusions of euphoria.


The lice are feeding

    on overripe rapture,

        crumpled at our feet.

I dangled a carrot over the hole

    of hell, unable to focus,

        ridiculing piety.

She's been silent for weeks.

The heaving city taped

    her beak. One last ball;

        no wordless peak.

Elysia, crawl with your perfumes,

    with your raw fish, back

        to the lowlands. The riots

we birthed are almost fed.

Our waspish alchemy,     lead.


       This is the cold.

The last gasp of bohemia,

    desperate to smother 

        reality     with vowels.

My clang to arms     wept

    like a dulling beauty,

        wolfed     by thin air.

Arrogant as a killer,

    I insist on more than blood,

        more than gutteral prayer,

more than sedentary life

    in the virgin's thimble.

Quaint as a fallen preacher

    in the honeyed sun     I melt,

        all insolence burnt away.

One filthy joke lingers:

    the saline century will tilt

        after     my trailing hands.

Benjamin Stainton was born in 1978. His poems have featured in Poetry Salzburg Review and The Journal and Carillon, amongst others. His debut collection, The Jealousies was published in 2008 by Bewrite Books. He currently lives in rural Suffolk.