Issue 20: Jamie Osborn

passing shot

       a version of Kathrin Schmidt’s ‘gültiger laufpass’

              the wood seemed to have timed its end

to a beat, before it faded: receptors

lost all point all touch, passed over

and into a history of groundlessness

               the grass turned away, once or twice

coming close: no stone that did not roll no leaves that did not scatter

for a moment deer were seen as spots

and then no more, so well i too found a space

               into this case a she-wolf ran bellied out

double through the clearing dabbed with light

stranger, greenhorn in fleeting green i thought still as she leaped

up to me, she raised one pouch for me

               you were in the other i learned to feel you through fur

the wood kept after us as we wore fingers to the bone

digging our way far from that bristling muzzle

clasped the she-wolf a last time and cocked her marching orders:

a passing shot at least at the frontier’s next branch

speak, deer

        a version of Kathrin Schmidt’s ‘sprechendes rehtier’

a bright day oscillates in the cables overhead,

a bird of prey sails through the quiet.

even the trees hold silent. there’ll be no

bridgehead to beat over the wood’s

dented ridge, muted like this.

instead, a talking deer goes quite

slowly from left to right, moving

its lips barely visibly. a waxen

tone that melts in the sultry air.

noiseless, it holds back. i've stuck

little sticks into it, they mark where we could

sleep, were we young.

summer, winter

        a version of Kathrin Schmidt’s ‘ob sommer, ob winter’

gradually the days are stepping back.

they seem to shrink, to flick

between the small cracks in the hours,

and hold up exhausted whenever i

too hold back. they clock

their full twenty-four hours, of which

each is as long as the last,

taken one by one. taken

as one, they accelerate towards a single end.

it does seem odd, that,

until gradually i come to see: not orignals,

but copies hung up on my back! and mirrored

on a day halfway through your life, they pass

pictures of earlier days, for examining,

only now it’s me who’s compared.

on this day, tomorrow has already

taken place as yesterday, no matter

how the names and faces shift, the basics

are the same: daughter

playing mother, mother bidding farewell.

so i carry myself to where

a wayward time is still looking, among

voices stripped of their bark, for its end –

it stands black, and silent,

and from the mirror steps

the first cry.

country calling

        a version of Kathrin Schmidt’s ‘landname’

your country’s calling… you were scarcely born

when bursting at the wordseams came watchyourarse,

shakealeg and listenin. in your final

pretty uniform, you waddled in; it fits you with those gaps

for the world where the wind dies-and-flies, until it furls.

capyourself and watchyourse! shakealeg and grab your starry coat.

you still lie naked in the shade, the wordseams sealed overhead.

already your country’s calling, put your clothes straight

on your body, stitched up word for word.

a loose thread shimmers in your country’s colour code.

so in your motley you give it all your heart until your fired up-

ending the years over your head. revel

in the colour of it. slowly, though, it turns out

your soul’s discharged – white – and planting itself

before the rippling shadow the wordseams let drop,

it resounds: watchyourarse! shakealeg and listenin!

(you see it laughing, fluttering, don’t hear a thing.)

wince – and the wordseams’ tongue shoots ahead.

clipped to it are the three great souls, they’re cut up short

and you’re gazing after them as they reach the wordseams, are folded in.

straight out the dream. your country’s calling – coming, so to speak,

undone, and your onetime suit that was so sturdily stitched.

your german’s set off on a cruise to the wordseams centre,

leaving you without. until once more there’s one

of whom you’d say: your country’s calling – you were scarcely born…

Jamie Osborn has published poems, translations and essays in PN Review, Poetry London, Eborakon, and Modern Poetry in Translation, among others. A selection of his poems was published in New Poetries VII (Carcanet, 2018). He lives in Norwich.