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Issue 134 |
Winter 2017-18

“Luthier,” “Aubade to Replace the Sounds of Morning,” “Draining the Lake,” and “After the shipwreck.” (Emerging Writer's Contest Winner: POETRY)

Poetry judge Natalie Diaz said, “These poems have a lexicon and language all their own. They build each body—body of person, body of land or sea—with a precision and a sensuality that comes from understanding there are more than five senses. A reader is given the gift of feeling the silences, the touches, the strengths and tendernesses of these bodies. The energy in the poems is quiet yet palpable, as if writing them down was a risk, a danger—as poems should be, maybe—a danger to see, to feel, to return to in memory or imagination.”

Andy Eaton is an American poet currently living in Belfast, where he studied at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. He has received awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. His poems appear in or are forthcoming from the American Literary Review, Copper Nickel, Narrative, Poetry Ireland Review, and Yale Review. He lectures at Oxford Brookes University and is at work on his first collection.

“These poems were written out of listening. They are not transcriptions, but versions of language I have in a sense even overheard from a voice I never knew, what my father’s father culled from memory and put on tape—narratives, songs, of labour and war. I always remember we share the same name, and I felt the gap between our lives even more palpable through the double bind of his present voice but absent body. So I listened as close as I could. And these poems are my reply; I take his silence as part of their music. At some level, I think, every poem is a way of writing back to the dead. Which is to say, the living need to hear each other remember.”

 

The Chime

men in camp hear voices not just

wind inside Yoshida’s chime it’s glinting

perforating out our year then years

if I had known I would have thought

to put together one story for each

note I heard there to tell a man

whose mind has slipped away no one’s

letter came I imagine tossing those

we would have written from the side

of a final ship to take us home pink

yellow light blue envelope confetti

to a sea that looks rubbed like wax

each licked and folded packet a voice

on a gust then a wave tipping

back it soaks and breaks it soaks

and breaks off from itself

 

Luthier

You hide the chopped bamboo stalks in the secret bottom

of the tool cart, then carry them under your stained

shirt to the barracks. Lay them down in lines like bones

across the wooden bunk you sleep on, to order, work

all night releasing your own dim imperatives. Dip

a rag into the moon in the puddle at your feet.

Slake stems with caught rain to peel their fray, untwine the green

from the pale flesh. A hollow in the curve is the space

where notes nest, tension in the strings what sings. Build in darkness

the gift you draw, the bow in the middle of our room.

 

 

Aubade to Replace the Sounds of Morning

You drink rain from a plastic cup.

Light gathers like flies

on the red meat of today. Itch of green

fatigues, a little baggier,

the legs inside them narrow flint sticks.

Song of light, and song of strong air,

heat which leaves a bug in the ear. Morning

is the echo of sleeplessness. You get up.

Which is to say, all you do is listen.

God might be the salty wind reminding you

of somewhere you can’t get to. And when the guard

smokes, the guard smokes. You start to imagine

the wisps as his breath in a cooler air,

but stop. Your suffering partly is to resist

the endless imagining of an otherwise.

I am telling you

this from a time long gone.

In my heart is a screen

door, a dress, a hand

on its other side. What you eat today

will not cure your hunger. What you eat

today will not cure your hunger.

 

 

Draining the Lake

The hush of water

from our buckets down

the bamboo runner

past our bamboo prison

gate. I never

heard it hit

the sea, but I imagined

that sound a lot.

 

After the shipwreck

we swim out further

from the current, and I do

look back—see the ship

slip to a whale’s

moan, the split hull

hung like a broken arm

folded into shadow under

my feet, holding

ash, and blood washes

over you, behind us now

around all of us (somewhere)

how the filled chamber

of your mouth

goes

dark.