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Graham Clifford
Reino Unido
In absentia

The words you never wrote, I pick at one;
the edge comes up like a wet scab, a plague pit
fathoms under, the air starts to hiss in

as radiation throbs out: I wasnt supposed to look.
Now something is punctured, irreversible, and now
green light from a warship strafes the walls,

sends shadows fleeing; I write words over and over
the gap but they dont take, only to keep writing,
to make a fine mesh across a wound

that is widening might do,
to lay a twig suture over the crack that splits
my white page, divides the table,

slices the house, carries on to halve the world
This dreadful thing I have done, I have done
but where were you to warn me?


The lad in the cafe at the end of the pier
is so wrecked with puberty we're afraid he might forget
to breathe. He's a skinned nerve,
a child in a man-suit fumbling our tea and biscuits.
I pay with pocket-warm coins and our fingers rub.
He flicks a glance at me with eyes like bullet holes.

Poor sod. I remember the throb
in my leg bones in dinner queues at school;
how, elongating on the sofa I begged
mum to knead my calves; how
one muggy evening, a bloke stared back from the wardrobe mirror
daring me with a frown to solve

the numbing blush, to explain
why his best friend was no longer anywhere near enough.

Soon enough

She types her question in the blank slot,
curser pulsing,
under a goggle-eyed cartoon genie
polishing air in circles over his crystal ball.

She sees my reflection inflate and claps
her sticky hand on the monitor
screeching, This is my private life
when I try to banana her rubber-fingers back.

All he gives them is double-talk, horoscope banter,
automatic clichs bubbling up.
And they can't get enough.
She's nine and three quarters and laugh-screams

when I grab her wrist, yank her hand off the screen:
When will I be fucked?

Graham Clifford




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