Issue 20: Rowland Bagnall

The Incurables

The face that’s missing from the fresco

you insist used to resemble yours. In ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar’,

you say, the man with the blue guitar discusses

absences as well, although it’s difficult

to tell when he is singing (if he ever is) and what a difference

that would make to what he’s ultimately getting at.

Equally, when we are drinking coffee in the morning

square I see the other saints about in robes, and surely

that’s the proof that we’ve been

rushing in between the two, between

the proposition as it’s made and as it then comes

to be understood: “Try reaching out and contacting

the hand that’s reaching out to you,” is how

a group of conservationists instruct the eager volunteers.

In ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar’, you say, the blue guitar

surprises you unless the man himself is blue as well,

as if appearing to the world at night, his skin producing

blueness as the blue guitar produces sound.

Likewise, whether consciously or not, you make

adjustments to your movements to avoid brushing against

the crowd, although it’s difficult to tell whether

the crowd can even tell you’re there.


I plan to test your bright façade. Undo your second

ultrasound. I plan to take your last exam. Retract your denim miniskirt.

                                                      Show me the empty storage vaults. Reveal the long-lost office chairs.

                                                                                    Show me the burnt projector room. Your box of stolen

prison dice. Can you decide which moons to view? Which knives

to stab the tourists with? Can you explain which clouds

                                                                                          to draw? Which shopping malls and streets to gild?

                                                             Velociraptors chase the car. Some Rodins freefall through the sky.

An origami crane unfurls. A potion can restore your hearts.

I want to blanket you with snow. To watch you hijack

                                                                                        someone’s life. I want to shower you with blame. To

                                                               hear that you’ve been stopped at last. Wake up and find yourself

embalmed. Retrieve your splintered ammonite. The park

unveils a solemn frieze. A hinge jams open swinging doors.

Rowland Bagnall is a writer currently based in Oxford. His poems have appeared previously in PN Review, Poetry London, PAIN, and The Quietus. A selection of his poems is forthcoming in New Poetries VII (Carcanet).