Freak Show

She takes pictures of all her dolls. Poses them sitting
like a murdered family in the middle of the night. Lines them up
on the bed, the most grotesque at the front: evil house-elves,
squished Winton Churchills, chubby Japanese twins.
Even the teeniest, weeniest girly one, who tried to escape
down the side of the sofa, she trailed back by the hair.
She takes photographs of herself with her dolls, the soft toys,
Freaks and genetic hiccups, in order of size, in order of eyes,
all lined up and under control when everyone sleeps,
and she is the only one about the house, free to do
as she pleases, camera poised and flash recharged,
organising her toys on the ned in the middle of the night,
arranging the babies and baby animals and severed heads
so she has a captive audience, giving them names,
histories and crimes, trapping them in a horror story
of her own making, imitating their voices, their bleating
and mutilated cries. She takes pictures in the middle
of the night, then goes to sleep, the dolls forced to look
and never forget a face. Awake by noon, still holding
the camera, she begins to frame, delete, enlarge, the dolls
already back where she found them all in the first place.






With the hills and warm rain, I brought back a pine cone
much bigger than a grenade from the actual snowline

where the snow cut an edge like linen on a table,
brocade trimmed by a temperature rise so imperceptible

that as we climbed to the partisan stand of conifers
we crossed into another world and all that that confers.





        After Celan

The hand murders love
When the field is white
with blackbirds
love will hold the hand





Poets of the Underground

You lost the plot, and now it only remains
for the last lamb to lie down, and you poets
of the underground, a veritable Red Army
(no more subterfuge, no more greatcoats,

no more Czechoslavakia) will never be taken
seriously again, distributing stanzas on the steps
of the functionless, automated civic core.
The jazz basements don’t listen. Their black walls

hold all that remain of your efforts to make
a name. The squares and boulevards ask only
for your money. The mundane has no attraction,
self-regard out the window, your hands are clean

and samizdat your finest hour. Relevance,
old comrades, those epics to your potency,
piety and determinism have been overthrown
by our catchy lyrics to imagined pain.





[Howard Wright lectures at the Ulster University, Belfast School of Art. He is twice winner of The Frogmore Prize. He was awarded second prize in last year’s Ver Poets Open and was Commended in the McLellan Prize. Poems have since appeared in Cyphers, Abridged and the Dalhousie Review.]

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