Issue 17: Oliver Southall

Herminium Monorchis:
Box Hill, 22nd June

Calcicolous, on the circum

-wealden cusp, we watch

these distant jets, seeming issue

of that ancient zone, of industry,

swim through their own mirages.

Beneath this brink scarp

a map is spored

from memories of greensand:

defunct beech boundaries,

tangled root espaliers, staving

the humid undersong of decay.

Sumped air, resinous, and

ellipsis of an old hammer pond,

quenching sun.

Today, though, we turn

back, to the lee spur, where,


by the perpendicular

they cling to

their “terracettes”:


they answer

to no intention;

so we submit

to the patient


they, with their mute,

snail’s-horn tongues

of alien green compose

beyond hearing

on the zither of grasses;

drift, with the

shivering schools

of sorbus,

panicked by wind, which coast

this alternate island

in the aromatic atoll,

of their locales;

to find

the summer’s place

their scent’s

sense’s singular



in us;

inappropriable shoal

of feeling

where vestigial organs

without species, wake,

to find their bodies

in a different time.

Leaf Sonnets (i): Rowan

These thousand street-side rowans, their leaves,

Intricate islands, and the berries,

Are the city’s entrance, to mountains:

Bunchberry, and the alpine cranberry,

In the lichen-lined clefts, of the rock,

The fragile magic, of diapensia, before rain:

Somewhere the serrations

Of the high cinquefoil

Mesh, like gears of memory, to these

Ratchet leaves: more than a family likeness,

This, the slow, pawl-guided working, the tock,

In life’s constant chronometer

Of loss: in the calendar of feelings,

The swifts, already parted, circle, and fly off.


               (For the 130th Anniversary of William

               Morris’s Polemic against Victoria’s Jubilee)

Foot-foundered, at evening,

We watch the scattered cowslips

Parody fireworks

In the “Coronation Meadow”.


As “heritage”

It is not where they grow.

They live

In a different meadow.

There, we know,

Work’s wedded to the world’s

Pattern, ornament of its arriving:

Cowslip, oxeye, the ribwort

Plantain: sparrowhawks

In their sylvan adjacencies

Of blue.

Cutting our gains

The corncrakes


On undiscovered commons

Of song

Oliver Southall lives and writes in London, though he sometimes walks out of it. New work will appear in The Germ soon.


Copyright © 2016 by Oliver Southall, 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.