The oracle plotted us
a path in riddle
replete with animal guide

‘take,’ shook the Pythia, ‘a beast
in your midst; one might
use its stealth.’

There are a wealth of tracks
can’t be landed
with the ingenuity of traps;

there are some acts,
slow to unfurl,
that outlive their maps





said things
tread close
behind me.

Said things
in flight
as speargrass

barbs all paths,
and clings
to all my loved things.

Said things catch
that tightening patch
of skin

thrumming back
of the drumming ear.
Said things pry

seek out gaps,
dog the tracks
that route trade

to the mutest parts
of a man’s acts.
Said things seep

’neath all his doings.
Said things
build his ruins

in struts of straw;
stack tinder
for the flammable whispers

of neighbours,
party leaders,

- hang them all.
Mix the matrix of said things
to a squall.

I am at sea





there is seasoning
stink under the song

held thick and fast
as a gust at day’s middle

or an unnecessary breath

in the un-expanding chest
of a god





Once, approaching Thasos,
night had barely sprung
its trap

whence side-saddled Selene
spilt her silver
over Poseidon’s tray

as a slave boy sang
of home
from our prow

the touch of his sounds
circled fields, surrounded tracks

steep mountain passes
verses feeling
sparse grass

and rock underfoot
lyre netting all
till it slipped

his voice’s grip
left his frame
leaving its promise

a labyrinth of holes
his bones

his shape
snapping like a sail





Zeus, so
the lizard

leaves its eyelid
behind a film

the cat
puts back its claws

the fox turns
back into its tracks

thus, I retract
my vote

leave it here
on the perimeter

of the agora

[Note: The Slip is the final volume of Perril’s trilogy excavating a crime scene at the centre of archaic lyric. Archilochus, ancient Greece’s first lyric poet, was a soldier, part slave part aristocrat, who took part in the earliest colonial expeditions. When Lycambes broke off the poet’s engagement to his daughter Neobulé, legend has it that Archilochus wrote such scurrilous poems about the affair that the entire family committed suicide. In Antiquity and beyond, Archilochus was a by-word for judgements over the acceptability, or otherwise, of indulgence in poetic harm; just as the literary form of Iambic he is famous for practicing is a locus of ethical crises. Here are the last steps of the ‘wolf walker’ Lycambes, undergoing his curse in the Dog Days of summer on the cusp of following the death of his daughters with his own, and reminiscing upon his part in colonial exploits. The book will be published in September 2020, with Shearsman via this link.]


[Simon Perril is a poet and collagist. His poetry publications include In the Final Year of my 40s (Shearsman, 2018), Beneath (Shearsman, 2015)  Archilochus on the Moon (Shearsman, 2013), Newton’s Splinter (Open House, 2012), Nitrate (Salt, 2010), A Clutch of Odes (Oystercatcher, 2009), and Hearing is Itself Suddenly a Kind of Singing (Salt, 2004).  As a critic he has written widely on contemporary poetry, editing The Salt Companion to John James, and Tending the Vortex: The Works of Brian Catling. He is Professor of Poetic Practice at De Montfort University, in Leicester.]

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