Issue 23: Josh Allsop
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.
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,
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.