Issue 24: Iain Britton



a sullen reprobate     this storm

builds up grit & pumice

        columns of red sky     foam into clouds

obscuring the oasis

                         the palms

stoop fibrous necks     & a child

plays in dust ponds beside the house

he pushes toys     sheds his skin 

small &

             neatly peeled     then

toddles off     unaware of who’s watching

from the curtains

cats’ eyes

the road     surfaces from the river

takes a deep breath     cats’ eyes

sparkle in the fog     trucks huff

through gears     past cloned shops

a woman hooded

                             & smoking

stuck in her crease of gold

appears approachable

a seller

           of bottled images     she ignores

the jabbing calls of bad dreams

glass valleys

elopement is a distraction 

the couple    drive congested streets

the rush hours


to free up a special moment     an openness

to elevate the wild animal

which pants in their mouths

they vanish

into valleys of concrete & glass

where human claws     rake at the sky

superstitions of one black cat

licking its night life clean

               is more than enough


a summer morning’s arousal

chips at the sea    at children & adults

                 the sea bucks    heaves

entangles itself in kelp 

poachers of people’s


               risk shifting sand dunes

uncovering artefacts     the blood &

bone of midnight incursions     homeless

shadows     rattle their empty cups


not a first     but echoes return

carving off epochs of collapsed hills    

craters jolt out

hot vaporous steam

                                  a father’s

promise is to return again

to his wife & children      the sun

carves off epochs of volcanic stone   

folk stories scratch at rivers

                   the father’s role is to act

as if nothing has happened


through the night sun

filtering out moths in the light

she does her circuit  

              collecting newspaper


bread rolls for her children

& lists of telephone ghosts

she feels the warmth of companionship

the man who walks beside her     who

doesn’t walk beside her

she goes through the motions of a woman

feeding on communal heartbeats

fox fur

at her neck     it sleeps

it sniffs at veins

darkening her skin


she licks her lips     drinks coffee alone

steals twilight’s grey solitude

she focuses on a stillness

on a dream undressing     of men & women

meeting under trees     in her house

the fox     hangs on its hook

             it listens

to her body     bleeding

Iain Britton is an Aotearoa New Zealand poet and author of several collections of poetry. Recent poems have been published or are forthcoming in the Harvard Review, Poetry (Chicago), The New York Times, Wild Court, New Humanist, The Scores Poetry Journal, Stand, Agenda, The Fortnightly Review, Bath Magg and Poetry Wales. His collection The Intaglio Poems published by Hesterglock Press (UK) 2017.

Copyright © 2020 by Iain Britton, 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.