Issue 28: Geoff Sawers

Misaligned Axes

I’m lying. If that is true then it’s false

if false then it's true but it can't be both

one kick from a horse sends you spinning though the stars

with nothing to slow your momentum you’ll never stop

until you collide with a ball of rooks winging westward

staring into the dusk at a dim early moon.

You could never leave home without leaving something

a book, some cakes or just a loving note

and so when I meet you out there on the marshes

or not exactly meet but just see you pass

hair whipped by the twisting gale to blind your face

and I know you said you'd flown to Italy

I can’t wave, I can't call you back because then you’d know

that I know you’re not there but you’re not here

I follow and know when you reach the end of the jetty

you'll either stand for a while and watch the wind

turn round, turn back toward me, stride right through me

or face forward, flex your fists and walk into air

Text From My Long-Lost Sister In The Spring

They showed us a horse made of fire

everyone wanted to ride it but no one dared

till our little sister shoved her way through the crowd

clutching a saddle made of water.

Later she travelled the continent collecting

antique paper fans until she found

that with age and distance our family

might forget even if never forgive her.

Figures pale in a forest by Cranach or maybe Memling

in deepest holly green with blood on the grass.

How many will choose the narrow path

and how few the slide? The incoherence?

As blossom gorges to bruised fruit

we stowed her light but she didn’t notice

played Chopin to the stars on a summer night

deaf husband beside her frowning at a crossword.

A toad with a city in its head

still knows no way to reverse entropy

but to live backwards and inhale each word

till they fall to bits on its tongue.

I’ve had a headache now since nineteen forty-five

that’s the year I mean not the time. I can’t think

that anyone will ever want us.

There's no air to breathe in a name.

Your heart nearly stopped at the sight of a brambling’s

blush in the apple tree next door

so hand me the tray and the china teapot

hand me the rumours of a small-town adultery.

What can language do that painting can’t?

The forest deepens to black. What it is, it is

all that which bounces back from the mirror

as the rest travels into the silver.

A woman lies dreaming of a glass gown

fists balled against her collarbone in the night

runs her tongue round her teeth and counts the years

since she as a girl found a saddle

made of water set fast in a stone.

You tried to buy the horse with next door's prize pig

with a bible of rain but its owner

set it free to run on the common one Easter morning

Geoff Sawers’ poetry books include Scissors Cut Rock (Flarestack, 2005), A Thames Bestiary (with Peter Hay, Two Rivers Press 2008) and To the Forgotten (with Giles Goodland, Goose Cathedral Press, 2018). His most recent academic publication is Before and After Oscar Wilde: Life in the Berkshire Prisons 1850-1920 (in The Wildean 2021). Born in 1966, he was only diagnosed as autistic in his fifties. He lives in Reading with his disabled son.

Copyright © 2022 by Geoff Sawers, 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.