22 February, 2016Issue 30.2Original Poetry

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Three Poems

Pierre Antoine Zahnd

At the marketplace

On Tuesdays,
she does readings at her stall.
When you set down a few coins
for the fee, she opens her creel
like a library, feels for the right one
to lay on the table. After going in
she eases the knife under the soft,
watery pouches of the stomach,
shakes them out of the fish
into a dog’s bucket.
Before she separates the head,
with the point of the blade she prises
out the choice part, the white
flesh of the cheeks.

Chewing on it, she ponders,
then leans over towards us
with a spark in her squint,
like there was something racy
tucked under the ribs.

 

Villagers, explaining how the forest burnt down

I don’t think anyone
actually knows, but they all
have a story. I like the one

about the farmer, stern man
with a wife gone after
a stillborn son:

how through the year
he’d sniff around each season
for the scent of their departure;

how, when winter was finally done
tucking the snow in at the country’s creased corners
like hospital linen,

he’d come out of the barn
after dark,
waddling behind a wheelbarrow,

crossed the yard and tilted the whole
slop of mulch, pig-litter
by the bucketful,

onto a dry hay carpet
for kindling,
and struck a match. Then, the drink

catching up with him,
instead of watching
he turned back,

unzipped,
and pissed on the ice,
while behind him

the flames he thought would moulder
lashed out, like surgeons, to birthmark
the indelible land barren.

 

Picture of my brother, falling

When evening set in
nobody could see
past the length of their arm.

In such weather,
you know the only
way to make sure

the others are still close to you
is to listen: the wind clinking
in the buckles of your packs,

the army lift-and-drop
of steel-set bootsoles
clumped against the snow.

Don’t say they didn’t warn you:
how in the wintertime the north side
slicks all over with ice;

how easily sweat settles
under your eyelids
when it freezes.

Later, you’d mention
the blue slur in the shadows
when the shadow to your right side

slipped— your arm
disappearing after, ravaging
a coat-sleeve taut with gravity and fear:

and then go figure
from the wrench-and-grapple seizure of a waltz
you shambled clockwise on the ledge

whose leg docked where, what limb referred to whom,
till all your body knew was that you were
an inch away from all it ever knew,

no firm thing
to find footing on

—disarticulate black puppet
strewn along

the mountain-flank (where,
like we were told

as children,
the stillness makes

neither fuss nor echo
out of what it takes).

~

Pierre Antoine Zahnd is reading for an MSt in Creative Writing at St Anne’s College, Oxford. He is Senior Editor at The Oxonian Review.