Issue 23: Iain Twiddy


In the museum there was a man laid out,

chained hand and foot, his fingery rib-cage

riddling the skin, his sweat-smeared bearded head

tilted up at a half-dome of lead bars

hard in the sallow sag of his stomach,

in which a brown rat ran the trickle-lash

of his tail, the twiggy nips of his claws,

the nerving of his sniffing and whiskers.

Jesus. I couldn’t imagine, back then,

what that man suffered. But it was natural

enough. After all, the rat had to eat,

poor thing; he had no choice in the matter.

I felt there was something of his glum look

in the face of one planted in the ranks

of the fresco that brightened the altar,

one hanging back, phlegmatic, from the light;

something of his twitchiness in the wait

at the rail some years later, kneeling there

prepared for the pale wafer, thin as skin,

to blankly suck the spit from the tongue,

getting set for the carpet-red run of blood,

ready to mouth, to swallow anything

just to be free of the sun-trap, the stained bars,

to be back past the rat ribs of the hanging man,



Whenever I take a walk on my own

(and I never don’t take one on my own),

with the city breathing its scarves of cloud,

wearing its medals of dead and surrendering leaves,

its hills slushy with softening prints of snow,

people look at me sniffily, suspiciously,

like this is really uncommon, beyond comprehension,

there must be something wrong with him, they think,

squinting, I mean, who on earth takes a walk

on their own, what the hell is he up to?

And the shame launches up, my eyes downcast

as I pass them, tied to another living species, the loop

in one hand, a bag of its shit in the other

like a pouch of gold coins, or an uncharming talisman

to ward off evil spirits (such as me).

So I might start going at night, in the space

between more than days, raw as a cosmonaut

slashed from his umbilicus; then I might say

I was looking for Laika, since I don’t know

if in a circuit she burned up fiercely, completely,

or her ashes fell somewhere, tamely as snow.

Iain Twiddy studied literature at university and lived for several years in northern Japan. He has poems published or forthcoming in The Poetry Review, The London Magazine, Harvard Review, Poetry Ireland Review and elsewhere.

Copyright © 2019 by Iain Twiddy, 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.