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The Vagabond Age

The smoking farmhouse         disappears.


Once I return to the milky village,
     my teeth will be     dust.


I leave behind a litter of parts.
     There are no clouds.
Only the sound of boots on grass.


My new mouth waters
    along the banks of the Stour.
I'll walk so long they'll remove a bone.


The demonic scream severed my lobe.
No more leftovers     or slavery  
     with a drum. No more
        she said he said she said.

I comb the cornfield     for a key.


The Beggar's Arms inspects
    my clothes. A coat repaired  
        with gaffer tape. Blood
on the pale shirt-sleeves.

Can I afford your sisters?
Life is my best     worst enemy.


A night in the woods
    with moon-spittle for rain.
His breath creaks     the trees.

I administer Salvia under wet leaves.

The black forest     pins my throat.
Our sun is nowhere. Dead
      behind my bed.


After morning, comes evening
       and after midnight,  
          the dripping.

Villagers with coal     for eyes.
This is the bend of the world.

Over     the hill's nape,
    fate squats like a bullfrog,
        tongue     unrolled.


A deathly town grows
     in the valley. I harbour faith
        like a holy convict.

Shadows drip across my slum.

There is nothing so young
     as an idea: Go, wade
        to the gulf of sensation.


I am too ignorant to be found
    guilty     of anything.


Mist over the rookery fields
    at dawn. From my crest of salt
        I hold a finger to the feeble sun.

The university spires line up
    in arms like a watery painting
            of promises.    

Visions of toothless girls,
    peeling off their ruby socks 
linger, until one brown leaf     falls.

An inflamation     of the eye.


I will smoke the bone of this city.

A lava-flow of vanity
     erupts from the stony building.
The torrents and the bliss of life
        without hope.

Inside the lounge's din I glimmer
     a question to the lady's arm.
Lady     like a sweating room.

I am the ego     of the light.
 She fawns over
    my untouched hearth all night.


Liberty under a lampshade.
Pictures     of contorted men
    adorn her tiny body.

She browns me a round
    of toast. We sit on yellow chairs
        at a wooden table.

Two glasses. The poison works
    miracles. I am inside her heart,
         watching the pumps.
My head is a red helium balloon.

I knew this face     would disappear,
    the further I fell from home.


Money. Elusive as untroubled sleep.
On the rosy street, the wealthy
    cobble among us riff-raff.

My feet are so light I could hunt
    a hunter. Mr Whoever
        wanders out of the gloom
            into my blue beam.

The scene     is heated by fire
    beneath our soles. Violence.
I steal     his powdery essence.

Under the growl of failing bulbs,
    white assassins split     me open.
Left for dead and such a pleasure.


Waves of thunder     snarl
    over the husk of my lip.
I horizontally seep    salt and oil.

The doubting hotel bolts its door.
Seven stars     in the glass.
Seven candles in the basement
        with leaky floors.

God speaks. I have no seal
    on my forehead, God.


Peace blossoms     in a flood.
 The safe tappings of the woodcut
    knock     like homely birds.

There will be a bed in the trees,
    and all life will flow     from me.


The longest day warns us
    not to creep away.
 Under my poultice, a continent
        of pus    bubbles.
We must not fall asleep.
 She gives me head by the window.
Morning     shuffles like a tramp
    on the vague pavement,
         paper bag     in fist.

Quidless, I chew my inner cheek
    until the cerise instinct
        bursts like a grape
            over her lips.

Hope drips     across the river.
    Where we are newborn.


Our godhead parts the waves' 
    hair. Sally, sally, sally.

On deck, we watch young
    limbs gladly     float  
       in the carnal sea.

A slender girl at the harbour
    smokes with endless     legs.
Ineffable lust. The hornet
         maddens inside my web.


Burning up like ravagers,
    with kinetic eyes
        we turncoat to taste the rising
metropolis, mouths    enlarged
         by unholiness. 

Words are fluid in this
    eternity.     Reinvented.


Only delusions of euphoria.
The lice are feeding
    on overripe rapture,
        crumpled at our feet.

I dangled a carrot over the hole
    of hell, unable to focus,
        ridiculing piety.
She's been silent for weeks.

The heaving city taped
    her beak. One last ball;
        no wordless peak.

Elysia, crawl with your perfumes,
    with your raw fish, back
        to the lowlands. The riots
we birthed are almost fed.

Our waspish alchemy,     lead.


       This is the cold.

The last gasp of bohemia,
    desperate to smother 
        reality     with vowels.

My clang to arms     wept
    like a dulling beauty,
        wolfed     by thin air.

Arrogant as a killer,
    I insist on more than blood,
        more than gutteral prayer,
more than sedentary life
    in the virgin's thimble.

Quaint as a fallen preacher
    in the honeyed sun     I melt,
        all insolence burnt away.


One filthy joke lingers:
    the saline century will tilt
        after     my trailing hands.

[Benjamin Stainton was born in 1978. His poems have featured in Poetry Salzburg Review and The Journal and Carillon, amongst others. His debut collection, The Jealousies was published in 2008 by Bewrite Books. He currently lives in rural Suffolk.]

Copyright © 2009 by Ben Stainton, 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.