Jude Dillon presents: The poet Gillian Prew for “Happy There in My Agony” #8
Gillian Prew lives in Scotland. She has a philosophy degree and a succession of low-paid, menial jobs to her credit. Some of her poems can be found at Eviscerator Heaven, Up the Staircase, The Glasgow Review, Eleutheria, The Recusant, Heavy Bear, Counterexample Poetics and ditch. She is responsible for three collections of poems. She likes coffee, crow, cats and ice-cream.
dream caused by the need to speak
They sit stooped
like staggered hillsides howling
a language of incurable need
a promenade of bitten tongues
in the swell of world.
Come, they say
spit your black days
the taste of bile
the metal pangs
distract your knees from kneeling
ditch your hats and gloves
and Sunday smells
for an end to prayer
vision has been razed in the fury of “Amen”.
They sit staggered
howling hillsides stooped
like a promenade of incurable need
a language of world
in the swell of bitten tongues.
In the blood,
in the bile,
in the blackened spit
I sit swollen
by the incurable need
dream caused by the homogeny of states
There is a broken story in this land.
It is called History. It is written
that the birds have ragged beaks
because a smooth edge is impossible
that they fly to mock the sorry men
of the plains who pray for wings, who
exist in the shadow of gravity
moored by inherited ideology.
are untamed libertines. The chasm
that separates them is more than
a scale of altitude.
I am a visitor here. I know this
because of my face on this passport. It is
my permission to travel.
even in dreams.
Where is this freedom they speak of?
There is no more of it where I came from
than there is here. This land screams
for emancipation. I can hear its echoes
billowing from underground
like desperate geysers of dry sound.
But I have my own echoes
of a waking place
where freedom is sold as a lie.
The women here grieve for the men
(who are not dead)
but are always gone. They pray
They fill the women’s wombs
I am a visitor…
I am a visitor…
Up on the hill they are killing cats.
Down by the shore they are drowning dogs.
What else do they expect from their children?
dream caused by the ceding of souls
the cloth, lacerated
the count of the search. failure
to accumulate. disintegration
building birds from bones
crush of the ticking clock
a smoothing Sisyphus with a worn hand
driving with the suicide doors open
the laws of the universe dissolved
the scandal of the silk noose
the still ones with their mossy backs
the peppery eyes of the lost
names on the wind hollow
as a stolen idea
I am blind now. pecked
by the blackness. how
can we close our eyes upon this?
dream caused by an adjacent love
Speak slow of this time in binding this sweet
time of night where our skin switches cells
and memory where our worlds are
our own creation. We are two dreams
here; two unavoidable worlds. I know nothing
of yours and the romance of mine is only
a slow suicide.
these dead horses. They are my failure
the saddest thing I have seen
in many a long dream
only horses but
they have painted faces
smiling red still.
Escape. Is that what
your shuddering eyeballs are telling me?
Someone told me men only dream of sex.
She was a thwarted woman and made massive
all bad. Still
I think she was at least 90% right
in this case.
This is a dream I want to climb out of
return to a warm breathing.
Love is not dead horses. Love is
the moment of waking
and not quite knowing.
Love is the death of surety.
a moment of incomparable ennui
Here, it reeks of amateur despair. It is all
a vague embarrassment: a dull dinner party
where the guests are terminal and talk only
of the unoriginality of their disease.
How common cancer is. How utterly bored am I.
No pathology can shake this ennui, no raconteur, no
fingers placed and squirming. Sex does, normally,
but not now. Nothing now.
I thought of writing
but sometimes poetry is a treadmill
and now it would only be a slug
and who wants that?
I thought of reading but the pages are too heavy.
I thought of thinking
and even though that might seem
inherent proof of that very thing
I can’t do it.
this moment is eating me alive.
If it doesn’t pass soon I
will be found a monotonous corpse.
in the lap of soft torture
I am famous somewhere.
What a pointless place it is.
Here, I am stuffed long in the shell of mother. The shadows
are translucent; cornered bugs in the stench of morning.
But what pretty bugs! And what perfume stench!
And the light…
What bids the things I cannot write?
The crying of lost is screaming across the sky. The birds
are vessels full of wisdom and gizzard. I am mapped solid
into a question.
Don’t talk of God. It is a mistake.
The tyranny of love tortures me softly.
I am famous somewhere.
I never want to go there.
the size of gloom can grow
We are a mourning version of the sun, clear
as a cloudy eyeball in the drip of age
all our shadows in the shape of disquiet
paging the sea to hear our skin
and why not drink it with the rain?
All the skill is in living, say the dead, as
they try to preserve a dignified memory.
We are undeniable unless doubted.
We are unimaginable unless imagined.
We are human…
or something else.
We throb with the stings of generations
and the dead bees not as dead as us.
We are the size of gloom but grow; poems
but not of words; love but always loss.
while reading the spines of books
Up, is a diary of clouds. The sky
tucked into them. There is the
meaning of a bird. There is a quiet belief.
Down, we are bare bones of an isolated incident
and we cleanse ourselves in mere water.
We are played; music unable to hear itself.
Deaf instruments that skirt shine but
want to build monuments: cold stone and dates.
We do not need war to be a broken soldier.
The time we have taken
– rehearsing our exit lines in black seconds.
Here, in the spines of books,
it is an expensive place to die.
alone one night in the midst of 43
Body – intricate mortuary. Elaborate
shadows are its shifting art.
smooth as haunted ballet. It falls –
eventually – like apples,
boozy and rotten,
but with the grace of widows who
never loved their husbands. Love,
I am ashamed to show you. The sound
of decline is blood rushing to a bruise.
Quiet – unless you are under skin –
where it deafens like the retreating heat
of a new corpse. The hardest thing – being
unable to slide into the self without anguish
– to see more beauty than grotesque.
Body – I have known you touched and fallow.
Now you are a crazy bitch in a ball trying to
keep warm in the realisation that memory is
no more reliable than imagination. Body –
you are in the midst of 43.
Recall if you must.
This is only one night
then morning. But
there will be more and
they will be endless.
all their proud spots and solitudes
There is a leaving sometimes in the gift of Other. A
drag. Dry peace sinks in the shape of its confinement
– and nothing else: a locked peace that waits
for the swing of time to unlock its cold variety.
And the sun – all coiled like a snake round an egg –
ready to devour my golden yolk. More golden than
the sun itself which ties me to the scaffold of its neck.
Down dark in clotted breath – and cool string hands
tying me wet. Other is summer enough until turned and
tumbled in the glass: aborted, in vitro – unwillingly.
the dead do not stir
Half as blue as before I
boycott the colossus of my defeat.
Raging, biscuit-boned; dunked
soft and coffee-soaked, melting into
the thrown cup of life so deftly cracked
– but there is a style descending
the ladder of my blood…
the essential symptom of my name.
About me I have only an idea.
Where is my place that contains not me?
I cannot go there.
It is all dislocated music.
There will be more of this before the end
as some summers the sun dries me out
enough to collect a few more years.
My buttocks sting still from the leather
thwack of love. Even my hair sighs long
into its rebellion. I am carried forward
for a while (yet undisclosed) moving
along what seems like time. They say
we only get a piece of it, so fill it somehow.
The dead do not stir even in the wind.
black, salt and kittens
The waves are black today. It is I who inked them
with my black eyes and my leaden pen; a toil of a pen
shaped and tinted as a shadow. And yet I am far enough
from the sea to imagine it the iris of a newborn. I am far
enough that I can taste the salt of sea and semen
on a tongue that curls for love
I am near enough to the waves to hear them caress the shore
in mourning: soft, black kitten paws squeezing life back out of
the sand – shelled, shocked and damp still from moist gestation.
I am far enough from birth to doubt its existence and
near enough to death to lick its salty crotch…
but tongue and salt…
such a favoured union of mine. Who cares
for seas of black and heavy pens that cleave the page
with every stroke? Always
there will be black. But dive down
into your lover’s salty crotch: it too
will be black, black as the centre of love
whose core is unknown
Dive down and lap your kitten milk.
the old, wedded ones
She has smoothed her waves of wanting
into floor and trod them keeping.
Have you more than this?
Her churches reeked once. Now
dead and odourless they are replaced.
She had a cunt of tangled flowers
now musty as dead bark, now
crumbling like the walls of weeping rooms.
There are ways of moving.
There are ways of doing
almost everything. Ways and ways
of it, but mostly
ways of seeing.
See HER she is not invisible her colours have not faded
into the grey of your working suit her life not fast as
a commuter train going nowhere her slow gait beautiful
as a fading dance her eyes smaller than they were
all sucked up with seeing see her skin it is poets’ paper,
the skin of a newborn mouse
to a man who sees only legs and
breasts, but not to him…
OLD M A N
He sees complete all love and despair all fucking and hobbling
all her black hair and the exiguous white between her legs all
her dreams all her dark days all her screaming births and each
one of her whimpering deaths all her wild successes all her
wilder failures her white teeth her yellow teeth the banquet
of her bosom the famine of her vanity
measuring time in the patina of her veins, and she
by his dangling scrotum, both
OLD M A N
lumbering into a kind of beauty.
the death of poetry
All our colours demand circuses. Only black
is humble; it collects itself discretely and
remains silent when the laughter
is viole(n)t. Blue is beautiful but
wants to conquer the world in swathes
of drowning. Our words are red and
always slaughtered. Their little deaths
make us smile and feel less alone.
All our cancers are stones
heavy and impenetrable
claiming white from the rainbow
where each bird wraps an untold wing
around frozen number
the thin of bone
the calling hours
in graceful murder
feet over feet.
All our corpses coagulate
a bleeding past
a foreign church
moving away from language
into the worship of
All our coins are for spending.
There is nothing left beautiful
enough to be free.
where love resembles a dying bird
The speed of love is the slowness of a dying bird
breast pressed against unknown and bleeding
from the moment of born. Shape
cancels itself out when morphing. Always new
and old in synchronicity. The moment of change
is life and death. Love
gathers in the failing quills, in the labour
of a dignified finish, in the black pupils of mortality.
And what of me? Am I onlooker
or participant? The answer is always ‘both’
whatever the question. Love
sinks with the rot and grows in the nourished
renaissance of libido. Yes, that love, the one
that shouts in satisfaction sighs under
its own enormity and is prepared to die for
its very existence. And the bird
still fading second by second. What scavengers
are waiting to dine upon it? What empty creatures?
I am destined for the shape of old woman [boxed]
worn into time passing at a dance while I slow
to a laboured crawl and chipped with some elegance
to the point of reckless love. That was ago (now, in fact)
as I type these lines in knowledge
though I have never been one for being
sure. But I feel with a whole burst
that if love is reckless then to be human
is a reckless undertaking. What else is there
but to step in?
we are erased