Issue 25: Luke Roberts

Mount Pleasant


Part of me thinks who cares

who cares, looking for the button getting lost.

If you can’t pour it out like a human decanter

the least you can do is shut up.

There’s no escape hatch dickhead in the winter forgiveness

like a problematic woodcut or the lapidary style

or any boyish optimist attending to his plants.

Where’s the style go? Who took it for

granite, who took it to quartz?

The breeze was always limb of storm

but no-one noticed, hooting

about looting as the air changed hands

and we were finally something complete.


What the waste of my time was embraced.

Could have stopped to steal red apples

but we didn’t.            Despair, adventure,

the law of life.    That nice purple flower

is nemesia.   That lilting golden moped

is a moped.

That guy who hurt his feelings over email.

I take it all: the Haliborange, the cherries,

the Ferrero Rocher. When you finish

you’re more personal, more errant

more liable to error, you are conscious

you are teeming with success.

A woman on crutches in the park.


By the end of the year I will be fluent,

discouraged, wrung dry of all intent.

‘Socketted into the universe, and passionately


A lavender hexagonal,

like sawdust given meaning.

Don’t call me again.

Don’t look it up.


That nice tree is a cypress

and I am still a devotee of sap.

That nice sap is a devotee of theeeeory

that big lung has a thing

for sitting down.

Switch places and look at it

this way: your workplace was always

unsafe, even if it makes you feel

ashamed to say so.

The room around you atrophies,

gigantic, ancient, and moving.

The harbour car park.

The heavy sleepers.

And the face mask

hurts my face.


A deer in a wheatfield,

leaping in the sun.

Nothing anymore encrypted,

just the basics.

Shit like England’s Helicon

and some second-hand Li Po.

I’ve been staying very still.

It’s called living in a city,

wearing balaclavas

and running past the bookshops

in the peak Julyest sun


to snow and love

to screens there’s no such thing

and sung this through a phone a phone

to anyone who’d listen

                                     and miss my friends


don’t tell them so so I can keep

the feeling keep from feeling


Some don’t some didn’t

some none of them said,

saying sorry to the spirit pushing fifty,

unrepentant, of the age, of the podcast

and what passes for scandal astringent,

for belated gothic fakers

for the pseudo youtube Florizel

whose name couldn’t conjure

whatever punishment he wanted

                        unfurled the cramp,

the streamers, who the story belongs to

tokens on a stump

made it harder to ignore.


All the skills kept snapping off,

in the graveyard, where they come to score

and scatter, in the corner,

where the trees are tender shelter

would you write them a sestina

like a settled bet on milk-tops

and other shit you fill the house with

The Prison and the Factory

The Transmemberment of Song

and who caters to the yellow ferns

in elevated gutters, perfect cloud control

to surface plastic, no giveaway, no playback

sudden amenable ransack


You can’t go back you can’t go back

and always I in disagreement throw it out,

advice, whatever kept happens to be useless,

abandoned, OK if you’re school, OK

if you’re church

but I’m not church or school. OK.

Slices of. Corners of. Don’t think at all

slapped the blanket.

                                    And it seemed,

suddenly, that the flakes were flaking off

and I was part of it, apart in a knot

attentive and several, inclined,

with my trips on display, my pointed hands,

and a magnet for freely composing:

                        old song,

you are the flavourless gum I want to chew

in the field of plausible errors

snorting caffeine and alpine refreshments

to echo-locate with the others, the table-top

the masquerade, the overweening powers

the lectures I was tired of and the mammoth

task ahead, the pliers for touching plywood

and the plumber’s special wrench

and the woodsman with the woodsman’s axe

and the fishes in the fishing catch

I saw a sparrow kill a man

and nazi poets fuck off

I saw a piece of caramel

and nazi poets fuck off

I saw a speeding light in sternum fervour

complicate the awkward rapture

in the worst of recent measures

to give the South Coast my regards

that means it’s over, yank a ringpull,

spitting in the vineyard, spitting

on the castle

when Dover sinks into the sea

I will be happy, I will be overjoyed

returning to the car park

where we watched the marching soldiers

quoting Büchner

and salting our food with it

smearing the page with it

the camera

always going for the sweet spot

equal parts texture and light

and the plain embarrassed standbys

who fell on the hurdles and tore them apart

it was strawberries and cream

and arnica gel, and a first-class ticket

to Plymouth.

And now he points his slingshot

at my head. And how he points his rifle

at his dog. And now he hands his lawyers

a demand. The bath-time of heroes

comes under his command.

I was obliquely involved in the movement.

I’m what you call a ‘fellow traveller’

or a flake. All I wanted was preludes

and fugues.

              And if you try to sharpen

your face

                         on the face of a friend

you tend to deplete

the achievement statuesque.

Take this away from me and never give it back.

The petulant spoil it like milk. The brilliant

go off like cream. The meek get a seat

at the table. The mawkish get sawed into two.

In Carlisle the autumn evaporates.

The River Eden is a shitty river.

But every name you get you get to keep,

paying homage to the Civic Centre

where everything’s outside, it’s all outside.

Those people don’t get it.

That people don’t get it.

I got stuck, unstuck, and then got stuck again.

When it’s night-time in the province

I lose track.

             Of the nail file, the ambulance,

             the sweeping, the water.


             and years

             and years

             and years.

             And when will you ever

explain it.

             You can have anything you want

on the menu.

                         You belong in the small drawer,

next to the blankets. A wild song barking

in the night.

Luke Roberts is the author of Landscaping Under Duress (Equipage, 2021), Inhalers (Equipage, 2020), Sorbet (Punch Press, 2018) and other sequences. He edited Barry MacSweeney’s Desire Lines: Unselected Poems, 1966-2000 (Shearsman, 2018) and with Sam Ladkin he is co-editing the selected poems of Mark Hyatt. With Amy Tobin he runs Distance No Object. He lives and works in London.

Copyright © 2021 by Luke Roberts, 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.