Issue 3: Iain Britton


I remember hemlock

drugging the air

and you

far from the carnival

running through heat

and sweat, the sword swallower

gone to his tent, his wife

curled up

in her crystal ball.

I remember you had

fled the flattened yellow grass

the clown's last laugh

the sounds of excitement

squashed under a weekend

of agricultural feet

parked wheels

and heavy lashings

of too much sun. Ropes of flags

had been draped over

the stomach of a hill

to hold it down.

From loaded cows, potholes

were white-lipped

with dropped morning milk.

You remember

the displayed pygmy

the animal clothes of mottled skin

the spear, the rage

of his solitary

confinement in a shrunken

skull. Africa,

a desiccated and preserved ear

flopped over the branch

of a dead tree. Africa to him

squeezed into the

small complexity

of his pint-sized self.

Away from this harsh-blue lens

of sky and cloud

the smell of enjoyment now gone

I recall the moment

when you stood beside me

locked in your own version

of freedom

wishing for the tents

the people, nature's freaks

the coils of the big white


to appear in the field

to top up your reliance on

comedy, on the farcical

uglier side of life.


Caught a snap of him

passing, a webbed hand

flapping like a fan

a face

steaming and hooded

under hot clouds.

Lollies punctuate the air

and the small Michaels and Rebeccas

of this world

all squeal, spread their arms

and a sweetness

hits the turf

and there's this scramble

for fun.

The crowds cheer

and toss lumps of words

at their idol made flesh

for another year.

San Gennaro's blood


and the cave dwellers


to stand at their exits.

I flatten my nose

against the sky's window

and push it across a landscape

of oranges.

At night, men gather to talk.

They swap places with angels

flying out to hunt

and feed on stars.

They avoid

this grassroots bloke

his cup running over, gifting

smiles every second

and cures made of herbal teas

and giving voice to poems

wrapped up in beads.

Water runs off his back

reshapes his profile

and makes him question

who he is today

who he should be tomorrow.

He waves his hand

as he swoops the loops

and does a fly past

and lands

in a wheatfield.

I'm no good at joining crowds

to listen to some pretender

who wants to rule

by sitting on a stony throne

who works miracles

at the flick of a finger.

On a clear Saturday

a cripple walks properly again

the schizophrenics

straighten their faces, the boys

in their prime make rainbows

while the sun shines.

The blood in the glass



The children

know the signs

and leap after him.

I pull back from the scenic frame

of town meets country.

A woman on the road

calls up the moon

and a flock of starlings

pecks at her blackness.

Native born

he tests the morning air

with a finger

refers to my thin armour

as his house

is happy to let himself

walk in my shoes.

Before we visit the ruins

he tells me no one

of significance lives there

or eats spuds or carrots

kills the birds

which eat the fruit

the sweet fat bugs

which hollow the trees.

The coming of the horse,

cow and chainsaw

changed all that

the savage offspring

of a dead English mother

changed all that.

No one of significance

rolls down the aisle now

marrying similar skins.

No one thinks

to rebuild the tabernacle

in ruins.

He picks what he likes

to look at.

Music fills the blanks

between the cut-down

narratives of old storytellers.

It rises and falls

amongst the morning's

chants, the man on his roof

talking to the sun, the woman

at her fire cooking,

the children spinning their tops

their songs whirring

in the dust. The future

is about smaller paddocks

squashed-up streets

houses packed

with too many arms

and legs.

He chooses what he wants

to show me, tells me

it's safe now to go further afield

pretend the scene

is coated in chrome,

marble is the rock to stand on,

that the savage offspring

of a dead father

is of no consequence

any more. He compares me


to a blood companion.

Iain Britton's first collection of poems Hauled Head First into a Leviathan was published by Cinnamon Press (UK) in February 2008, which was a Forward Poetry Prize nomination. Interactive Press (Australia) will be publishing his second collection this year. Poetry is published or forthcoming in Ambit, Agenda, Stand, The Reader, Magma, The Stride Magazine, The Warwick Review, Mimesis, Wolf Magazine, Succour, Mimesis, London Grip (UK), Harvard Review, Drunken Boat, Slope, Nimrod, Tinfish, Rattapallax, Fulcrum (US), Poetry NZ, Jacket, Cordite, Heat, Southerly, Meanjin, Island and Harvest Magazine (Aust). Iain Britton's website.

Copyright © 2009 by Iain Britton, 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.