Issue 17: Samuel Tongue

American Hybrid

It is grey outside and there is trembling.

Skyscrapers, and the arched bridges, all

stare into my room.

Imperfect horizon line, they have made glasses just for me (gloomy things).

You call, the one with the glass doorway, the wavy glass

contrasting light on paving stones inside the courtyard to the calligraphed

                                                                                                                                 foundation stones.

This is a sideways suicide but I mean to give this to you.

It’s late in the afternoon, all napping. Then there is no need to tell anyone.

A swimming brimming cup, a trembling

mass of augury and eros was this man. His self wore or was wearing,

always condescending; vulgar, slowly separating

up from the black boots of her black outs

windowshades over grass,

his overmodulation over ‘the dark period’ - someone to miss.

Croaked and flew from the four-lettered name of God

by an inflection. In all that contour

the dove rattles the mind into thinking

hundreds of plastic halos into the ruffs of hundreds.

Then, only then, did my eyes open -

Something like images are here

It snowed; I did errands at a desk,

something beginning in an event that beginning overrides.

A little owl had learned to count, to set itself apart

like a brown cardboard home beside a dam.

Here, this speck and speck you missed:


is no cause for alarm.

All that beckons

                                     ink flicked onto water

                                                   a “music that floats” (Boulez)

                                               spreading like a patch of oil                               all that beckons

                                      the gall wasp

                                          makes ink

                                      from the oak

                                                              by provocation

                                                                                “no poetry that isn’t cruel” (Yang Lian / Holton)

                                                                         over time

the ink digests paper-skin


             strings and lines             radicals

mulch to feed the orchid’s flame

  a character with lines the same

                                                 as the wasp

scratching at the wooden shrine

                                                  spitting out a paper nest

                                                                             over time

                                                                                            the scholar-man and the farmer-man

                                                                                    share the same character       the pine tree


                                                                                            in a forest of ink

                                                                                            splashes burnt water

                                                                                                                        onto the fleeing fox

                                                                                                    black drops thick in its burnt hair

                                                                                                                                   characters dripping

                                                                                            onto new bark-paper

                                                                                                                 a “music that floats” (Boulez)

                                                                          over time

                                        all that beckons                                                                        

                                                     is ink


Make me an instrument of your peace.

I shall measure the gap between utterance

and action. I shall measure the finest variation

on the scale of gift and curse. My precision

will be pin-point. I am in your hands;

use me as a device to extend your demands.

Make me a tool of your full desire. All

that I have is yours. Make me instrumental

in the salvation of the world, bendable

to your perfect will. I am dependable.

My mind is empty, my body is sound.

I will not let you down.

Samuel Tongue has published poems in numerous anthologies and magazines, including And Other Poems, The Compass, Cordite (Aus.), Gutter, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Interpreter's House, Magma, and Northwords Now. He held the Callan Gordon Award as part of the 2013 Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Awards and is featured in Be The First to Like This: New Scottish Poetry (Vagabond Voices, 2014) and Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear, 2016). His debut pamphlet Hauling-Out is also with Eyewear (2016). He is poetry editor at The Glasgow Review of Books.

Copyright © 2016 by Samuel Tongue, 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.