The Last Day of Your Childhood

The last day of your childhood
We go up to the green hills where you are at home
Look down on the buzzards
And the sludge-coloured winter valley

The loosening of frost has released it back into decomposition
And no colour is intact
It undoes itself in algae
And wealden agony which is a paler version of the Slavic
Like aging in comfort

I’m walking the dogs
But in a cellar in my mind I am rehearsing a scene
In which a woman takes her child to a wasteland
And abandons it
War is coming and she is in flight

I’m wondering about the difference in sensibility
Between this woman and me
I’m wondering about the imaginative difference
What I would be if the air was never still
And the horizon smoking

But the air is still
Apart from my prattling
How I like to seize the moment
Hold words to its throat like
Future and luck and hope

Words that are countless and
Without value
Expended like shells into an area
In which all life
Is extinguished

The only chance of life here
The only small hope is in the repeated
Movement of lung and heart
Your willingness to forgive
The loosening between us

              (Sussex, 22 January 2017)




Rosaries in the Sand

Say a rosary for María and Juana and Guadalupe
also for Ricardo, Jorge, Javier and Carlos
especially the last who sat in wet pants for hours
although was it urine or tears, no one could say.
He’s got a burning wish. Something cheap and sugary
but he can’t remember anymore, it belongs to another boy.

All the rosary beads are curled in the sand like tiny snakes
And some are rattled and scattered on the asphalt
and the only god is scratchy, wondering why no one can count
and no one’s prayers are threaded right. Come on, he says,

five lots of ten, it’s like press ups or squats, you train and you get better
come on, you spiritual savages. Where are your glory be’s?
But the only sound is sobbing, like beads plopping into puddles
although there are no puddles and no beads.

Come on says god, fingering his arse. I bought you people rosaries
and you drop them in the desert like losers. Gather them up
says god, picking his nose. Put them in your pockets.
I order you, says god. Sometimes by losing a battle
you win a scrap, notes god, taking out a vanity mirror. 
He’s lost interest now, and he opens a small knife,
cleans his nails of grease and wipes the dirty blade on his hair.



[Sasha Dugdale  is a poet, translator and poet-in-residence at St John’s College. She is currently translating Maria Stepanova’s poetry and prose for Bloodaxe Books and Fitzcarraldo Editions. Sasha Dugdale would like to thank Adriana Díaz Enciso for her advice on Mexican names.]

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