Issue 8: Sarah McKee

Spell Oh!

For God’s sake let us sit upon the sledge and tell bad jokes about the deaths of Emperors. Some eggs have been preserved, some spilt; all haunted by the hardest journey ever undertaken.

Practical Cherry checks for shock post annual letter-haul. We have it out stormily time again over with no guesswork, with no Jonah: rimed and dead-beat jobbers only on the bookish trudge.

Our manly hands were frozen, frostmunched through fur. Feet (one or two) through finnesko too. Three cheers for amputation if the trouble do not spread.

One Ton Despondent: this carewon cairn marks staunch pony meat, hoosh up to 34.43 oz. per Englishman who’ll stick it in the neck: we’ll not neglect the sick but rather stick it stick it stick it!

We did not run out of surprises: no-one expects the Scandinavian race. Risks were taken on the hoof with zinc and cocaine supplement.

Here is 12oz. pannikin cocoa pemmican and cracking icebiscuit for Christmas, broke fast over best (beastly, blacking) blubber-tinder, under jumbled hymnal; the some-nightly pianola.

Whose womb curdled the ice? and the hoary frost of hell, who gendered it? She hymns us to prosodic snoring sleep in hardihood.

It is safe as a church in darling Antarctica, awful Krisravitza, oh our beards and foot-sorrowing blisters, enough of the bitter pills are saved to swallow should reach (spell oh!) exceed grasp.

To our most beautiful sweetheart becoming our wife, tugging the seaweed quilt in the ticktick & sleeptalk & bellish loud shambles camp night!

To revised sweethearses under diatomic floes, under pistol-shot through sastrugi skies; under our flagging people up north eleven miles and more, above all, good god, provide.

Ski sticks scratch out the Owner’s last records: we all hauled into the shop to stick it to the pain; and Evans and Titus and Birdie and Bill and me never walked out again.

[The text of ‘Eleven Cairns’ was commissioned for an installation project which took place in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, in October 2011. ‘These Carewon Cairns’, informed by music, photography, letters and literature relating to Scott’s last expedition,was written in collaboration with musician Joe Snape.The performance on October 24 was one of five occurring under the title ‘Access All Archives’, as part of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas.]

from Fragile

Dear’st Elya what’s

        oh what’s your favourite

        oh whatever – something

        I don’t know? &

        what & oh what is it that

        so darkens so your brow so

unilaterally my fearing dear? & will

you be a milkman manning wholemilk

goldcapped as a gangster’s tooth, like

        what I’ve read about? & will

you bring the cream for

                 others’ porridge too?


Dear’st Elya,

Gory be to smog for covered things! Excreaming eloquence they obfuscated,

chundered themselves over.

In the null set, Elya, they at least set standards stanced and stagey,

maybe and not realler` than your thinking.

             `Think – how often’s thought extinct or under smug dark water

neither drowned nor limbit either talent times time only sinks and,

sometime, stinks.

             `Your turn. No – d’you – know? You or I to throw? Ah. Oh. My go. I

spin the spinner at footlength with my most spry little toe and I don’t


             Not yet because all elements are all part-parcel and partition of

each others: glass: cloud: water. Dampish son and daughter. Scales of

seeing water in the fishbrain skill, it measures up and up and cuts much

more’n mustard.

Going up and still, what skill! These references stick all finny in my

gullet when I try to think it out aloudly, all this stomachfull of bollock

comes up daily with such repeated trying.

Don’t you think?


Dear’st Elya -

Third of all, the last asker made the cut

         and there, then, it was - good.

It - all came all-togetherwards from distance-out.

(We conglomerate. We gather self-bits into

                                       being, spit the badpip

even at long distance-out at quickspit rate, ptoo).

Then remember how will it be, conjunctively?

         Then - spot the news before it catch joins up

togetherwards before your primary pupils -

and, and and remember.

         Don’t forget.

                  Remember. Ampersand I’ll be yours once-a-day.

Third of all, the last asker made its pertinence remark

      Amorous. Autonomous. Remember? There there. There was no






                          ,or,  Places without names.


              Do you remember when Elya it

was I started passing the buck? As

                                     long as

it’s pretty I don’t

mind. There

                   ever I was conveyed across

waters like a scurf or scum or

skimming stone.

           In total

           contrast I heard


Here and here and here again.

Such                     (nothing).

Only for that illness it

comes        &            goes,

          comes    &    goes pixie-

tipping leaving greying

ghoulish (hollows: in your


         Gimblish it is once you’re

left. Terrible compounds going

back back back and oh

(Aphonia! Aphemia! Aphasia! Alexia!)

again so so so do,

         d’you see, do you, here,

         d’you know - no? No?


Elya, dear’st.

Aye. Living alone leaving alone, loving alone.

alone loving               learning and liking alone

loathing alone, loaning and leaning alone

looking and leering, leching alone. Lining

alone. Lying alone.                Longing and

letting and letting well alone: losing

alone. Lurking alone, only loitering. Alone

lingering. Littering less lounging alone.

Lone lettering.          Love. Alone.


Dear’st Elya.

No, I partake not of pills nor of counsel. This is my pride, my

personal keeping my self together, mein Kampf don’t you damn

dare it.        Babe, the dust either chokes or it     settles.

NB. Beastly reasons for meetings mean disillusory

leanings, cleaned out dealings over sweet cakey

leavings.    My only eyes goggle like gobstopping

globular icicles.   Hear, ev’rything’s quite quiet

in being enough  nearly, clear undear dislight in

this drear or too-weird world, ah me, each loathed

behest screeches in each ear of you so I can tell you

so. These hysterical histories breaking discursively

down scripts              to retch       to gag              to burn


Elya my elya my Elya. Will             we play in

         earnest once            this last exchange

of commerce is     complete?


Dear’st Elya.

Once upon a while there was always someone

without tender eyesprouts of regret.

It was clear after consideredly considered

time that nobody grew up ruffling their (own) hair.

So, one someone could be generalised like

a nation representing a massy third mass.

We’re all just so much matter

even if we don’t.

Because of this, that.

So this and so damn that.

If you left your pricey philosophy way behind, in front would be

the old political democracy we think is in fact everywhere:

all places placed

precisely here.


Dear’st Elya,

                  My hair’s much longer now. I’m taller, maybe, thinner, even

older. My eyes, strangely, are wider.         These only are shoe-leatherette


I wish you’d care to know y’know.

                                          From the interim we’ve come apart so


as I wish oh so wish some one would write about such    qualifiers in my


This wishful pretension, yes, have it. And you? Here’s just my own mess of

memories. Material. Undiscarded envelopes in the jungly attic.    At home.

            Away from home.

Dear’st, there’s no but no place like home, not even home itself. Which

roots to track back homewards to find something like it? Good George, I’m

so unhappy. And restful in the knowledge that that doesn’t at all matter.

At peace so in my piecemeal pieces, it’s. Your call.   Outside yes beyond at

last each blue mailed page airily goes you-wards, my words for you all over

and keeping on it at it I’m well all over it, how           are-you?

Dear, dear, dear’st, my. Oh my. For the last time we’ll stick together

like foldy bits of envelope, yes, okay? Ah read how my writing’s

diasporated. Good bye and bye I come and    go in your           all-too-

lengthy      absence.


Dear’st Elya, it’s okay.

Now the vagrant rag-picker recovers.

All these folk in earnest earnest,

dedicating lives to


                         De-finitely in fine

pen-tune, in black, as semi-, half-, or

pseudo-, quasi-philosophical. Unmemorial time

passed, passes, unmemorialised. Falling

asleep meanwhile

                      while working. Then

there’s you I’ve not seen in a

while, while both of us kept


                 on and on

                            and on.



Sarah McKee lives near Box. She writes for Edinburgh Poetry Review and The Harker. Her poetry has been published in Veer and Volta, and as part of a contemporary opera (Bonesong, Carmen Elektra Productions). Sarah was awarded the Quiller-Couch Prize by the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, in 2011.

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