Issue 23: Josh Allsop

white tower

In Białowieża she traced the spirit in coal-scrawl

on a vellum scrap,

the flank two fathom,

alabastered bison indigene

made flush in loam under the hoof,

alces haunch catching skiffs of crystal

on the ghost-hide.

Our party formed an ocrea in a hazard wind

privy to snifters of dust,

suspense distorted by the fibreglass

tapping out echoes between trunks:

little birds marching their boots.

Heer rifle crack, there they broke the manor,

trepan hole clogged with Wehrmacht litter,

laden with stocks, nitrate, primeval feeding;

viscera shameful in the sleepy probing breeze.

Palmate greeting of the antler, discord present.

The powder horn upended; gritty semaphore

instigates fleeing, traipse-lollop over fallen tsars,

falter on/through the many-branched crowns.

We wished to address and in the speaking make,

make effect of my utter want

to show that I might have the genes of it,

cultivation, or what is passed for it.

Pressed against the soft back I for a moment

leech carbon back into myself,

aspirate and speak vibrato clenched into

the build of sound, the mass

arching back in a whisper: ‘alch’.

It does not work.

The gold runs loose, coagulates

into small monuments to vocative work.

Pouring tinctures from flask to flask

the head is matched to the swirl of bitter leaves

powdered at the base,

scraping glass felt in the teeth, mismatch

lust in chase. These chambers and grooved metal,

infant wants amongst the age of the bed.

This much has been clear so far

Broken Tower: Polesie State Radioecological reserve

The glade squat over the Dnieper,

Duga mantled in manufactured trees,

all this was broken in the south.

We broke through the threshold

of the decrepit storefront, took documentation

as if not enough people knew,

phosphor light whipping it all to abject peaks,

see it on the dosimeter? There is no peak.

That comes from your own knowledge,

the peak in relation to what you know

snaps the aperture,

captures disturbance, hooves overtaking any generator

in the northern untaken wood.

Untrammelled bracken

immaculate to the witness

of a series of martyrs cutting into a half-life

breaking water saturated with dust.

Stood under the rim the de-peopled path lays hidden,

if you look into the cloven hole

you see not what is fallen

but what is circling briefly before the

other side, reaction unobservable, write it off

and if I see that I think:

How can we release my speech from the swirl?

What set of rites, if such exists, what

sowing of totems against the pull: the lead slate, half-shovel breaks

so I take to bouncing mirror glances off the ticking foot

spilling life out of the matter

of the sunken groundwater crypt.

Jet fragments, auraed, dissolve cells.

Plate lifted, Linnaeus we have categorised the moss!

and that which produces this being

what I think it is,

broken daguerreotype,

I have made it quite clear in my

own head to the extent that

my uttered lapse, the swollen tongue

and distended neck

mark me a personage of some commendation.

I am thus made lacerate with fishbarbs

which I never got shown how to use,

shanks re-enter on the toothed edge,

the way in wasn’t enough

we are here for rubble, carnage of discrete pieces

and due to the gaps

you cannot go near that water,

the continuous stream brokered

by wormwood and the scent of liquorice.

New Tower: Nablioki forest

      ‘We represent in ourselves organised terror -

          this must be said very clearly.

                 – Felix Dzerhinsky

We haven’t spoken on account of hostilities

but I doubt there would be much to say.

I have left to pursue finer purgation

choking over the river –

handling cloyed ichthys this summer season

gasping in the slough, the fragrant air.

The breadth of the space cannons

the galloping, distracts me, through pummelled ever-green

(tract of bloated limits

this labyrinth flayed by dusk/fire)

I glimpse antlers

powder-laden in the throng of spines.

Ambition better handled than

the bodies, but I take it my words had an impact

or they told me that.

For better or for ill they are all in my own hand.

Getting lost in dross limbs sticking out of the silt

bare of their sheath.

This was a site of hunting,

a site of some cruel usage, not use.

The thundercrack, the heaving breast

drags breaths from old lungs,

this ferment the edge of our knowledge.

the hulk excoriate, bloated

Deep chamber, cave-hollow

addressed in arrayed sapphire

and pitch, I prophesy omens in the blue-black

damask the photophore carcass

decides to show me.

Hands glide slick, free, down the tunnels

our only delineation what takes

and does not take on its light.

Collecting work under the nail the hand labours open,

work that might not come to anything

but the routine is the key point.

The least show of effort

prompts attrition, wears down,

lapping claustrophobic reach around the crux

its trunk swelling, almond reek

slowly turning out.

We talk breathless the upper edge cutting each inflection staccato,

like too much friction

against the charnel rind of the hole,

our seeds black let rot in our hands

though even the husk is worth noting.

I have to cast these gravel flecks like so much wheat.

I am in the vein, scared of the warmth

that rushes, tears me down into the dredge, pure material.

So, if I leave what happens, just oxidation?

That boils, doesn’t it? Sol speaking

out of sight in unmanageable clarity

bathing our accord

in something far too reasoned and old,

this speech formed from basic percepts

lumped together in a mass you could pass through.

We are both outside and working through the outside.

Fumbling to image tactile,

grip so tight there must be

something deep to keep out of,

otherwise why flexion?

I have yet to question the order, only the rationale.

I occupy this space again and again

along with a deserted host.

‘What I’m saying here is that some utterances

have significant disruptive power’.           

Fingers drum on bridge of ice sternum,

I hear that certain limit-works 

pushed out and cracked the sphere;

we live with the dent, the filtered air,

hanging debris, cartilage girder and can’t

get near the wound.

Before long we’ll be sucked out

at a certain capacity it all gives out.

For want of word I strike makeshift dice in cups,

thrust little dainties up the channels

bedding down on damp ragged petals

from the bent ribs through the granite sluice

spy movements, and tell lies upon lies

eyes fixed on frost

reading a range of numbers.

Josh Allsop is a Creative Writing PhD candidate at Durham University, where he is researching the concept of ‘Difficulty’ in Late-Modernist poetics. His poetry has appeared in Pif Magazine and Poetry Birmingham.

Copyright © 2019 by Josh Allsop, 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.