Issue 21: David Lloyd

Four Poems from Bar Null

Morning thunder joins the peaks, copula

of rain raises the earth in a bright

snatch of decay. The tenanted house

is mildewed, filming of damp moss sweetens

the granite step. This you must take now,

stone by stolen stone, and tumble: dis-

mantled rock rolling uprooted down the slope.

Seated in solace, bent to his yeasty kieve,

master of fermentations breaks it down: haloes

of wort-rings unfold through the litmus, this

nonsense-mediated decay tense with the ash

of things, raven chatter hectoring the tepid

cloud. I tell you, he found his real face there

down by the sluggish waters, in the dank retort,

till your white head silent and your set jaw

stared everything down into its sullen earth.


A lifeline sutures the hand, crossed, only

that there to read, a seam unseen

fastens the grey graft to the red bark

as an old moon in the young one’s lap,

scuzzy aura blurring the scrim.  A sheer

wind sings in the breach, damp cinder draught

wafted from the slopes: my dry mouth

tired of its breathing, a white ash

seasons the tongue. Nothing but sky

adds to the sky now a greeny light

diffuses along the crest, ashen light

before the storm.  A seeding of droplets

peels from the branch, puckers the sand.

Number and level cyphered my tendered

palm: you might have said dross tide-shunted

at the surfline, wave-crescents fading.

Wave meter paced the shore, keeps time: between

the mountains and the sea, home trudge shrank

into undertow, nil by mouth,  lip trap clamped shut,

but still she came ocean-eyed in dream, said see

what I could,  see what I knew, see what I was:

the mountain back beyond, holding, weighed down

to this quartz rest—sea-crystal pressed in earth, earth

earth-heavy, clear in the seam light delays in its multi-

shimmering veer. This is the work diverging

from the cast, and your listening-in bone was

all ears to it, to the dream plunged in the earth,

askew to the remembering vase, bud-crested

crystal: from here on in it defines the sill, like

a signature, like an uneasy gaze into refractory

light, with deliberate slowness in the rift loaded

with smithereens, o-mouth to thread at your peril.

Feathered animangel in flight she opens

this articulate assembly, cast out on

the reticent field. A pillar of fire

burns afar, the undressed stone gives back

the day’s glare. Mother knuckles dragging

the finest sand for knuckle, clavicle

to string a high note over clinkered earth.

Phosphor drops searing out of the scalded air,

splutter of sparks annulling the bone:

dredged earth laid bare afire, every thing

burns in its own way, with an aura

of hot breath. Dead face turned from me

recedes into the fold, a word breathed in

my ear catches in its knot, reticulate

loops snaring the parting song, this science

of disappearance checking out for now.

David Lloyd is a writer and critic, born in Ireland and currently living in Los Angeles and teaching at the University of California, Riverside. Arc and Sill: Poems 1979-2009 (2012) collected his new and selected poetry. Bar Null will appear with SoundEye Books and Furrow Archive with Magra Books in 2019.

A bilingual French/English edition of his play, The Press/Le Placard was published by the Nouvelles Scènes series, Presses Universitaires du Midi, in 2018. He is the editor of Cusp Books, a chap-book press based in Los Angeles. His latest critical book is Beckett’s Thing: Painting and Theatre (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).

Copyright © 2018 by David Lloyd, 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.