Issue 23: Howard Wright

Freak Show

She takes pictures of all her dolls. Poses them sitting

like a murdered family in the middle of the night. Lines them up

on the bed, the most grotesque at the front: evil house-elves,

squished Winton Churchills, chubby Japanese twins.

Even the teeniest, weeniest girly one, who tried to escape

down the side of the sofa, she trailed back by the hair.

She takes photographs of herself with her dolls, the soft toys,

Freaks and genetic hiccups, in order of size, in order of eyes,

all lined up and under control when everyone sleeps,

and she is the only one about the house, free to do

as she pleases, camera poised and flash recharged,

organising her toys on the ned in the middle of the night,

arranging the babies and baby animals and severed heads

so she has a captive audience, giving them names,

histories and crimes, trapping them in a horror story

of her own making, imitating their voices, their bleating

and mutilated cries. She takes pictures in the middle

of the night, then goes to sleep, the dolls forced to look

and never forget a face. Awake by noon, still holding

the camera, she begins to frame, delete, enlarge, the dolls

already back where she found them all in the first place.


With the hills and warm rain, I brought back a pine cone

much bigger than a grenade from the actual snowline

where the snow cut an edge like linen on a table,

brocade trimmed by a temperature rise so imperceptible

that as we climbed to the partisan stand of conifers

we crossed into another world and all that that confers.


        After Celan

The hand murders love

When the field is white

with blackbirds

love will hold the hand

Poets of the Underground

You lost the plot, and now it only remains

for the last lamb to lie down, and you poets

of the underground, a veritable Red Army

(no more subterfuge, no more greatcoats,

no more Czechoslavakia) will never be taken

seriously again, distributing stanzas on the steps

of the functionless, automated civic core.

The jazz basements don’t listen. Their black walls

hold all that remain of your efforts to make

a name. The squares and boulevards ask only

for your money. The mundane has no attraction,

self-regard out the window, your hands are clean

and samizdat your finest hour. Relevance,

old comrades, those epics to your potency,

piety and determinism have been overthrown

by our catchy lyrics to imagined pain.

Howard Wright lectures at the Ulster University, Belfast School of Art. He is twice winner of The Frogmore Prize. He was awarded second prize in last year’s Ver Poets Open and was Commended in the McLellan Prize. Poems have since appeared in Cyphers, Abridged and the Dalhousie Review.

Copyright © 2019 by Howard Wright, 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.