Issue 24: Sam Quill



Through give and gully, the cool river grazed

as a solid thing and twice as dark as soot;

it worked at the foundations as it pleased.

Perhaps we clocked some quiver in the seep

of groundwater, on the day I eased

my foot into the mire and felt it drop

clean through; the whole field followed suit,

a pocket square pulled through a wedding band.

We float under a roof of cryolite,

as leaves on a deep pool and through the stoned

dark, count gems or dream their miracle.

This is wholly fantastic.


Forgive the aspic tongue that mined those tunnels;

oh caustic tongue, which knew itself adept

to cleave on a halter stone. Hard water bristles

under touching breath, and on that bristling

nape, discloses something of a gallows

-self, to Godsoever is still listening.

For half a lung I held it. We were trapped.

Water rose, below the waterline

she felt for where she knew someone had tapped

the chamber, like green Aleppo pine

is tapped for resin. We shot clean through the jet.

She can breathe underwater.


Bell of black amber, high like a crinoline,

ribbed like a pigeon chest: a diving bell.

Burning resin smokes a cool plumb line

through a starless lift, translucent and erect.

We are not as deep as we will mine

but in the still here, plumb will intersect

the level pond at a faultless right angle.

Unruffled perpendicular, how queer

to line a kissing angle in the bell

of black amber, in the umbrage here.

Sit down on your throne of ebony

and tell me where I am:


Steep heart in birdlime, may till may, to render

sinew unto tallow, blood to blood.

Through yearlong dissolution we were tender.

Now liquidated, tendered, we might seep

as limewater through a dulcet aquifer.

Whitewash becomes pigment. We grew up.

A young man at the surface could have said

that he could see stigmata, or his lady

bleeding through the naked motherlode.

Now the sunlight cures that frescoed body.

Airs cold wine, that is a soft insisting

for all its brute reserve.


I can believe the violence and the tell.

I turn returned, the rock face cuffs an ambush;

things are heard when they cohere, are dual

and of the kind we fight for; animus

instinct to instinct: I believe it all.

How that knowledge lingers as a bruise.

Fear what would be to be one who could rush

the staggering modality of her cry

in one of ample moods. Abrupt of flesh,

again, its pound for pound, again, I strike you

out, for this is savage equity.

O froward, forward.


We tend to leeward in an airlocked room.

Something, call it necessity not fate,

suffers our occasions, and the split etym

turns angels on its horns. But I will say

that strict alterity bedevils doom,

its altern rhyme: to right is aye not I,

to left tooth-tooth. In a darkroom to light

we sink our meat-teeth, skyward at a crawl.

Nothing perturbs the modal stalagmite.

Fixing in unalloyed mineral,

it acquires the definition of a stone

and spends nothing of substance.



Meaning not ambergris nor what it means

to posit ambergris: some things elude

our bellcurved recall, though nothing resigns

its canon. Much gathers at the lip.

We sound the chamber, noting our designs

on hierarchic metal, crying deep

as Grendelsdam. Or was it to have lived

by daylight and shouldering the sun

that I, not Baal nor Lucifer, was earthed?

By trials we learn that all things come to ruin

us. No, listen! Again. Listen! Listen!

They come to ruin us.


That it was twice we folded our decease

in a distill of lifeblood is what proves

the truth of this: all that we do not parse,

if only in locution, is unsexed;

hermAphrodite named no difference

between one saltwet chamber and the next.

So always my own bodydoubledives

dead through the sump. We rise in level gloam.

The posied witch, like as two unlived lives

she to herself, prefers a hecatomb

to human sacrifice, and I and i

is less than the least of X mercies.


On the threefold page, lewd adept of the blood

more than a scholar, I, vulgar numismatist,

study my imperfect victimhood.

The old terrestrial privilege of the Sun

weighs bookishly, turning the grave to good,

keeping all its tale has numbered mine.

But it was she who said, ‘Beware the ghost

of those who lie in any Greek but Homer’s.’

My sentence is perfection of the gist.

It will be hers now, dark six thousand summers,

that agon which is ours again, again

and buried among gold.


I.I.0. (Angelus Novus)

And he was three days dead and then arose.

Goading of gods is given, here is a God

as fissile anaphora, or too concise

parataxis; the embarrassment of things.

Enlightenment says synthesis is loss.

Throned and unkind dimorph, how his wings

historicise their miserable brood,

even to apocalypse. But One,

lesion and viscera hardened, as in blood

evacuate as blood moon, as in stone,

murmurs in the central of the bed,

a rose, a rose, a rose.

I.I.I. (Angelus Dubiosus)

Such were our laws before deliverance

from the signalman’s calling, his illiterate trade,

brought allegory’s unforced intimacies.

Then we had returned. The forms of return

are forms of an unwilling excellence:

the great loom is the sky’s whole is the sun

and it makes light of us; unveiled, revealed.

Dubious poetry; lawful occurrence. Name

it agon. Now something sweet and read

it again. Willed tenor of the dream:

the weight, the palm, the acid and the tongue

of the brazen coin.

Sam Quill is a poet, musician and scholar of Romanticism. He has published poems in PN Review and The Next Review.

Copyright © 2020 by Sam Quill, 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.