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.]

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