Issue 17: James Byrne


Because she was susceptible

What is mistook is taken. Captive

under the interrogation of lamplight,

in Caballero Garcia’s siffle of piss, 

a nameless girl, gangrenous, bleached

white. Arise, oma, ummi, to give birth

on the Avenida del Prado (is it a boy?).

Velázquez’s buffoon son, Calabacillas.

Life conspires. There is no other way.

What a golden beak!

A bird’s eye so vivid it cannot think

of you or I, or beyond what is seen.

When it speaks the sound of a syrinx

tightens around a catapult-shaped bone.

Beware of false prophets at the pulpit.

Bittacus’s talk is all cheep cheep cheep.

The church fills with skulls and the sick

still huddle round for something to eat.

To rise and fall

Mistreated, he would subtend the sun.

Trick of axis. Gravity’s razor edge—

breath becoming thought, ambition.

He simply wanted to change the world

into himself. Superior to failure, he saw

otherness as opposition when stepping 

on shoulders. Mad beyond its own law,

the avalanche that rises before falling.

And still they don’t go!

Calais wears the snakefoot of Boreas. 

Coldest wind, nebular wind. Temper

of a falling wall. Calais dehumanises us

from they, flesh from flesh. The hunter

gathers her to go, but where? No Zephyr

in the West, no water in this jungle.

The boy inside a shipping container

holds up a picture of his dead uncle.

James Byrne's most recent poetry collections are Everything Broken Up Dances (Tupelo, US, 2015) and White Coins (Arc Publications, UK, 2015). He is the editor of The Wolf. Forrest Gander writes that reading Everything Broken Up Dances is ‘like gulping firewater shots of the world’. The selection of poems sent here are from his next book The Caprices, a dialogic ekphrasis with Goya’s Los Caprichos.


Copyright © 2016 by James Byrne, 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.