Issue 22: Sasha Dugdale

The Last Day of Your Childhood


The last day of your childhood

We go up to the green hills where you are at home

Look down on the buzzards

And the sludge-coloured winter valley

The loosening of frost has released it back into decomposition

And no colour is intact

It undoes itself in algae

And wealden agony which is a paler version of the Slavic

Like aging in comfort

I’m walking the dogs

But in a cellar in my mind I am rehearsing a scene

In which a woman takes her child to a wasteland

And abandons it

War is coming and she is in flight

I’m wondering about the difference in sensibility

Between this woman and me

I’m wondering about the imaginative difference

What I would be if the air was never still

And the horizon smoking

But the air is still

Apart from my prattling

How I like to seize the moment

Hold words to its throat like

Future and luck and hope

Words that are countless and

Without value

Expended like shells into an area

In which all life

Is extinguished

The only chance of life here

The only small hope is in the repeated

Movement of lung and heart

Your willingness to forgive

The loosening between us

              (Sussex, 22 January 2017)

Rosaries in the Sand

Say a rosary for María and Juana and Guadalupe

also for Ricardo, Jorge, Javier and Carlos

especially the last who sat in wet pants for hours

although was it urine or tears, no one could say.

He’s got a burning wish. Something cheap and sugary

but he can’t remember anymore, it belongs to another boy.

All the rosary beads are curled in the sand like tiny snakes

And some are rattled and scattered on the asphalt

and the only god is scratchy, wondering why no one can count

and no one’s prayers are threaded right. Come on, he says,

five lots of ten, it’s like press ups or squats, you train and you get better

come on, you spiritual savages. Where are your glory be’s?

But the only sound is sobbing, like beads plopping into puddles

although there are no puddles and no beads.

Come on says god, fingering his arse. I bought you people rosaries

and you drop them in the desert like losers. Gather them up

says god, picking his nose. Put them in your pockets.

I order you, says god. Sometimes by losing a battle

you win a scrap, notes god, taking out a vanity mirror. 

He’s lost interest now, and he opens a small knife,

cleans his nails of grease and wipes the dirty blade on his hair.

Sasha Dugdale is a poet, translator and poet-in-residence at St John’s College. She is currently translating Maria Stepanova’s poetry and prose for Bloodaxe Books and Fitzcarraldo Editions. Sasha Dugdale would like to thank Adriana Díaz Enciso for her advice on Mexican names.

Copyright © 2019 by Sasha Dugdale, 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.