Issue 26: Camille Ralphs

Jael takes care of Sisera

Judges 5:24-31

this man came to this woman’s entrance    once

upon a different time    chased by abrasive

sand    phased to a blur on eyeless wind

and dropt his well-oiled head    upon her chest

his lamp was male and knowledgeable    called

the canvas space its own    called all of her

belongings into being    from the dark

then she said    You are safe from history

and hurt with me    steam breathed from green

mirages or the mouths of words    this page

was shared    unshredded by the ancient damage

or the knife    red    rib-stiff at his waist

his shirt was dyed blue in the wool    with power

as he went to sleep    amid her life

then went to sleep    a tent peg through his skull

as Jael’s tent    windowless    boiled with sun

for all the world    or for a biblical hour

she ran     pedalling dunes with her feet    or our

glad    glowered    glared into the mirror

of that hated    that entrancing    vital night.

Look at My Glamorous Certainties

Sometimes I smile like a muscle, pulled – dream

through the warmth I’m

a baby of wheat, of two

eras, with two ears (wheat), and I sleep on

lilac water. Plus for scale

these aspirated syllables of ice,

moon-blue-white and as loose as ruins

sluice into the cornucopia

of the smudged cornea.

Wind beats in the heart-shaped leaves;

hospitable aren’t hospitals;

and hot dog smeared with mustard gas,

clause bulleted with points

and water-cannon budge along … plural as sheep.

O claws of flattened lilies.

Who can say all windows on the world

are chemical, when songs

air out the sky and eyes

double their vision, huh? You’re clean as burning

lavender, a woman by you, and beside

myself, says softly. Don’t wake up.

Camille Ralphs’s pamphlets are Malkin: An ellegy in 14 spels (2015), which was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award, and uplifts & chains (2020). She is the poetry editor at the TLS.]

Copyright © 2021 by Camille Ralphs, 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.