Issue 24: Simon Perril



The oracle plotted us

a path in riddle

replete with animal guide

‘take,’ shook the Pythia, ‘a beast

in your midst; one might

use its stealth.’

There are a wealth of tracks

can’t be landed

with the ingenuity of traps;

there are some acts,

slow to unfurl,

that outlive their maps


said things

tread close

behind me.

Said things

in flight

as speargrass

barbs all paths,

and clings

to all my loved things.

Said things catch

that tightening patch

of skin

thrumming back

of the drumming ear.

Said things pry

seek out gaps,

dog the tracks

that route trade

to the mutest parts

of a man’s acts.

Said things seep

’neath all his doings.

Said things

build his ruins

in struts of straw;

stack tinder

for the flammable whispers

of neighbours,

party leaders,


- hang them all.

Mix the matrix of said things

to a squall.

I am at sea



there is seasoning

stink under the song

held thick and fast

as a gust at day’s middle

or an unnecessary breath


in the un-expanding chest

of a god



Once, approaching Thasos,

night had barely sprung

its trap

whence side-saddled Selene

spilt her silver

over Poseidon’s tray

as a slave boy sang

of home

from our prow

the touch of his sounds

circled fields, surrounded tracks


steep mountain passes

verses feeling

sparse grass

and rock underfoot

lyre netting all

till it slipped

his voice’s grip

left his frame

leaving its promise

a labyrinth of holes


his bones

his shape


snapping like a sail


Zeus, so

the lizard

leaves its eyelid

behind a film

the cat

puts back its claws

the fox turns

back into its tracks

thus, I retract

my vote

leave it here

on the perimeter

of the agora

[Note: The Slip is the final volume of Perril’s trilogy excavating a crime scene at the centre of archaic lyric. Archilochus, ancient Greece’s first lyric poet, was a soldier, part slave part aristocrat, who took part in the earliest colonial expeditions. When Lycambes broke off the poet’s engagement to his daughter Neobulé, legend has it that Archilochus wrote such scurrilous poems about the affair that the entire family committed suicide.

In Antiquity and beyond, Archilochus was a by-word for judgements over the acceptability, or otherwise, of indulgence in poetic harm; just as the literary form of Iambic he is famous for practicing is a locus of ethical crises. Here are the last steps of the ‘wolf walker’ Lycambes, undergoing his curse in the Dog Days of summer on the cusp of following the death of his daughters with his own, and reminiscing upon his part in colonial exploits. The book will be published in September 2020, with Shearsman.]

Simon Perril is a poet and collagist. His poetry publications include In the Final Year of my 40s (Shearsman, 2018), Beneath (Shearsman, 2015)  Archilochus on the Moon (Shearsman, 2013), Newton’s Splinter (Open House, 2012), Nitrate (Salt, 2010), A Clutch of Odes (Oystercatcher, 2009), and Hearing is Itself Suddenly a Kind of Singing (Salt, 2004).

As a critic he has written widely on contemporary poetry, editing The Salt Companion to John James, and Tending the Vortex: The Works of Brian Catling. He is Professor of Poetic Practice at De Montfort University, in Leicester.

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