Friday, March 1, 2024

Three Poems, Sherese Francis

 Saint Veronica (Naming Ceremony Part II)
(Inspired by my grandmother and Belkis Ayon’s Vernicle series)

My grandmother’s name was Veronique.
She bestowed her name unto me as my middle name.
The name I would share with the shed blood of relation.
The name given to me :: medium. :: mirror. :: mask.
The name carries the past 
I could never witness with my own eyes.
The name always returns :: a face.

The face returns :: the first iconography.
The face returns :: the measure of the weight of light shining through punctured skin.
The face returns :: sweat. soot. s/ang/uine stain.
The face returns :: a death mask.
The face returns :: these watery reflections of love. or is it con/demnation? or is it vic/tory?
The face returns :: you the screen-struck girl.
The face returns :: the propelling of a fabrication.
The face returns :: an uncredited picture. a disembodied source.
The face returns :: a bacchanal dismemberment leaving the head as oracle.
The face returns :: a brazen head rolling down the river. 
The face returns :: a beheading in crosshairs.
The face returns :: a Medusian talking bronze horse. a Wizard’s green mask. a Mimir.
The face returns :: I believe I know I love you and not much beyond that.
The face returns :: an unidentified flying creature forged on an aegis.
The face returns :: these forget me nots.
The face returns :: the horror of seeing his missing face.
The face returns :: the other holding up the mask of his missing face.
The face returns :: the other seeing through his eye sockets.
The face returns :: a snake egg.
The face returns :: a wounded projection.
The face returns :: a slow motion smack in the face.
The face returns :: a sun-incarnated fleece.
The face returns :: a caul vision.
The face returns :: a new craft on in/visibility
The face returns :: the eye at the center of spinning wool. 
The face returns :: a crossdresser’s manifesto.
The face returns :: a bullfighter’s mockery. Or a thread out of the labyrinth. 
The face returns :: a look into the cavern’s pool to see your grandmother’s face again.

Dis face covers up :: a form of Re/velation.
A weaver of the face :: a flag clearing space in a name :: the foundation of a Re/volution.
The trick of the constant doing and undoing:
She wears the songs of Caly/pso to forget apo/caly/pse. She’s dancing an in/visible dance.
Dis face re/mem/bers herself on your body as if Nature will never tear the body apart.

Battle of the Quiet, Contemplative Oracle

Them: You’re so quiet!
Me: You have to earn access.
Them: Why are you so quiet?!
Me: Demanding my words is breaking and entering.
Them: Why are you so quiet?
Me: Would you like step on the shattered window glass in my mouth?
Them: Say something!
Me: I have two ears with an open sign and dry lips stuck together. (G)Listen.
Them: Talk!
Me: Moving my Jaw requires anointing. Pass some oil to me.
Them: Speak up!
Me: My vocal cords haven’t been to the gym. I’m working on a mem/ber/ship in nakedness.
Them: Why?
Me: Words require labor. Are usually birthed with heavy messiahs covering their bodies.
Them: Why?
Me: Tongue twisters. My tongue gets cramps.
Them: Quiet?!
Me: Mistranslations of the mind               Dis/figuring both of us.
Them: Quiet?!
Me: Di/vine existed before saying a word.
Them: Quiet?!
Me: My arm is a long tongue. A dancer. A drapetomaniac. A w/riter of ringshouts. A cursive language speaker. 
Them: Quiet?
Me: Some sounds can’t be heard by human ears.
Me: Is my tongue part of your colony? Your manifest destiny? Do you feel less real without it?
Me: The tele/phone — ultimate symbol of modern man’s inability to communicate. Binding and carrying as man/y sounds we can. Still understanding is too far. Rings at the wrong time. Distracts the mind from its concentration. I am misheard all the time. You slur my speech with an accent. Like a baby learning to sing.
Me: Too much wind around a ship steered by a trying ty/rant sinks it: A why?-whale chase fixation in response to dis/mem/ber/ment. A limping king of thieves curious about origins, the answers to herself, the product of civilized brutality. A blurting out of a one-leg’s secret name when thinking the spinner isn’t (k)listening, and having to flee in a lady’s body. Are you still (k)listening?

Theory of My Minds: I Having a Conversation with Myself Having a Conversation with Des/Cartes Having a Conversation with Himself (Meditations with Enlightenment and Freedom)

“The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The black mother within each of us - the poet - whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.” — Audre Lorde

Dear Re/NTR,

Who is God in the eye of the beholder?
I can never catch myself in a flowing river. Ground zero is where new paths of unmapped territory are found.

Is there a God? If so, does God deceive?
You need a lot of make-up remover.

What is intimacy?
What I think of you will die. What I think of myself will die. Hint: the Self dies all the time. 

Define the ripple effect.
It is yourself always broken open and read.

What is the correlation between the depth of Self and the depth of Image?
Self-preservation can be the same as Self-ignor/ance. Aka what sank the titan(ic).

Deluge or delusion?
Definition: Tumbling around in a deep whirlpool. I have fallen and I’m not sure I want to get out.

Who is the father of science, psychology, philosophy?
Your thoughts are not my thoughts. Classification and authority: a fabrication of certainty. The wise say they love their mother and her big pot.

Is there one immovable point to shift the earth?
I have a distorted sense of the world. You pushed me off balance. It is my form of adaptation. 

Do memories lie?
My body. My shape. My place. My movement. My extended self is a chimera. Call it compounded matter aka it’s complicated.

Is this life a dream?
As long as I conceive of the idea that nothing has happened, it has. The consequences of construction. Even fiction has its own rules.

Then distinguish reality from fantasy.
I overthink others’ reactions to me. How do you know that’s me? Sorry, my mind is prone to err…

What is thought? What is rationality? What is man? What is animal? 
Self-movement is a question of relationships and reflections. Pull my string. Or is it my leash? 

Then what is intellect?
A tower of babel. or babble. Oh I got it: experimentation of the experience of environment and embodiment. How about this: the e-motional limit as it approaches words and equipment. 

Do you mind that I put us at risk by reading beneath the surface? 
I’m gathering evidence.

When something changes is it still itself?
What do you think I am? I’d like to remember myself as I was. I mean am. I mean will be. I mean what I am not. You know what I mean. 

Is God a He? Does God look like me?
If so, then I don’t exist.

Is seeing believing?
Only with selective attention. I’m over here. 

Am I somebody or just deceived?
I can only make judgements about things that are known to me and things I am still unaware: I am a thinking thing. I in a stable. Neigh. 

Is I dependent on what I invent?
What use is imagination if I can’t cover myself up. I am missing a puzzle piece. What’s the big picture?

I think I am, so I exist?
Please tell me that I matter. I heard in the dark outer space, you are weightless because no external force of contact is there to hold you. I wish I could fall for you.

What is the nature of the human mind?
My body is angry that you don’t listen to it. 


Sherese Francis is an Alkymist of the I-Magination and expresses her(e)self through poetry, interdisciplinary arts, workshop facilitation, editing and literary curation. Her(e) work takes inspiration from her(e) Afro-Caribbean heritage (Barbados and Dominica), and studies in Afrofuturism and Black Speculative Arts, mythology and etymology. Some of her(e) work has been published in Furious Flower, Obsidian, Apex Magazine, Bone Bouquet, African Voices, and Newtown Literary. Additionally, Sherese has published three chapbooks, Lucy’s Bone Scrolls (Three Legged Elephant), Variations on Sett/ling Seed/ling (Harlequin Creature), and Recycling a Why That Rules Over My Sacred Sight (DoubleCross Press).

Selected Works, Koss

Aldi: Simple Things 

We dawdled in the heavenly vegetable aisle,
palming the zucchini, playfully argued about onions,
the appropriateness of red versus sweet—to cook or not.
We were both poor, but groceries cost half that of U.S.
Shopping’s a chore I normally hate  but was elated
sashaying with you at my side, then drifting away
with cart, slowly coming together at aisle’s crossing
after I dallied, staring dumbly at foreign names
for tomato paste, which I needed to make mafé.
Product naming was confusing—we were juggling
three versions of English, but it amplified our otherness,
and the tingle I felt in my torso and limbs,
nervous anticipation. Hadn’t cooked for anyone in years.
Us making food decisions. Remembered how easy joy is.

*Originally published, North Dakota Quarterly


you wanted it raw
not precious
sex too,
the space between
tattoos crudely sketched
hieroglyph armies
march of flesh
just the skins
the jist of it
witch’s symbols
etched into digits
your warnings
rough stars
scarred into arms
tattoo artist traced
from your drawings
your face too
what you did
to it
a primal expression
or grievance
just name it longing

*Originally published, Chiron

what max said before climbing into her spaceship

what about the velocity of things
the ever-fleeting
flame-ejected titanium shell
battery jitter and drain / defunct-human touch
memory flakes / show-and-tell facebook
touchscreen splendor / fingerdy-linger
tweedledee twitter / gaba to creatine
ping pong brain thing / tweedledum marketing
dumbed-down googley everything
machine unlearning / lowest common
denominators / normalized
violence sublimated into viral cuisine
the new connectivity
the new reflexivity / the new mediocrity
how is it everyone is doing so great
marketing prosperity / so much perfection
at the center of things
rate me / rate her / rate him / oh ranking queens
like / heart
rage face / emoji heaven
eternal fabric / social soul medium
reality drivel / cacophony of tedium
dead narrative
confetti attention / scatter box
soul flattened to ME
soul flattened to screen

*Originally published, Feral

Five for 

five months since you killed yourself
my body-clock does its dirty work
           five magpies form
                        a door in the sky
           their invitation
                        to die
woke at five / soaked / remembered the date
anniversaries / the dread of eleven
remembrance gutted my chest / failed
to follow you / into the hollow / I sprawled
gum-stuck to mattress / beached-perca limp
flickering tapes rolled on cue
what he said / what she said / what you said
what you did / what I should have done
five isn’t everyone’s heaven
declared my neighbor, cruising his golf cart
hissing scripture
it’s unnatural / a sin
against god
she’s so selfish / she didn’t take her meds
it’s never that bad / why didn’t she pray to God
until I finally said enough
you never even met her
           five magpies form a door in the sky
                        their invitation to die
there’s a flaw
in people / they worship
shame and blame
you knew shame like the skin
of your cheek
           shame for the kiss / shame for the sickness
           shame for the look / and imagined sin
           shame     shame     shame for the skin
           shame with the belt / shame for the pleasure
           shame for the fat and shame for the thin
           shame for the love / shame for the art
           shame for the illness  / shame for the birth
           shame for the sex and shame for the flesh
           shame     shame
           shame with the fist
           shame for the joy and shame for the tears
           shame for the patient
           shame for his death / shame for your own breath
           five magpies form a door in the sky
                        their invitation
                                   to die
there are no assholes in heaven
the guy in the golf cart is mine Max

*Originally published, Feral

Seven for (Your Voice, Ours) 

I remember your voice
Key of G minor
The vibrating throat tonic
Euphonic synthesis
Magpie’s sorrow psalm
Ruffled Janus head of sound
Back-tilted, sweet and lamenting
In-between life notes
You, healer of wounds and wounded
Joined by my latent vibrato
Alternating melodies
Harmonic blips in the scourge
‘Til Saturn’s sickle
Slashed the air
Arrested the chords
Leaving a whoosh in the wake
A fissure, the infinite wound
Between musical spheres
The devil’s score

*Originally published, Dreich

Wuthering Heights erasure with envelope, Wite-Out , and coffee

Wuthering Heights erasure with whiteout and digital embellishments

Photo Cemetery Cherub

Photo Ashes

Koss (she, them, they) is a queer, mixed-race poet, writer, artist, and asemic writer with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Their debut chapbook, Dancing Backwards Towards Pluperfect is due out from Diode Editions in ’24.

In Conversation: Lo Kwa Mei-en

Daniel CyranGreetings Lo, thank you for agreeing to do this written interview with me. I appreciate your willingness to explore these questions. While I have not read your award-winning collection, THE BEE’S MAKE MONEY IN THE LION, I want to focus a bit on the book I have read, and utterly adore, YEARLING (Alice James Books, 2015). This is such a timeless / monumental collection to me, a spiritual monument. From the opening epigraph of (my first love, ah) Emily Dickinson, to the concluding piece, CANON WITH WOLVES IN THE WATER—it feels like a long & exciting journey from first page to last page. I’m hoping this interview will inspire folks who may have missed out on the initial run of YEARLING, hopefully they’ll be inspired to pick this collection up. As for folks who have it on their shelf, hopefully they’ll be able to re-trace their steps a bit to re-visit this brilliant collection.

Lo Kwa Mei-en: Hi, Daniel! Thank you very much for inviting me to do this interview, and for your kind, uplifting words about YEARLING. Both mean very much to me, and I am grateful to be in poetry community with you here.

DC: If it can even be qualified, what role does the spiritual have in your work? I know that the title, THE BEE’S MAKE MONEY IN THE LION, is a eluding to a Biblical passage. And your poems feel deeply spiritual. What do you think of the relationship between the spiritual and the act of writing a poem? How are these related/unrelated? What do your spiritual leanings look like, in the physical world? What I mean by spiritual, I suppose, is that as human beings, we do have some kind of relationship with the unknown & the unseen. So I’m wondering about your relationship with, and how you interact with the unknown & the unseen in your poetry practice.

Lo: My relationship to the unknown is basic: I fear it, and learn to live with the fear. As for the unseen, which I would like to reframe here as the unperceived, the word that comes to mind is privilege. So much of the comfort I have experienced in life–comfort which has become a spiritual priority to question–has been derived at the expense of my complicity in the suffering of other people. And my complicity is resourced by a system in which I have had the luxury of not-perceiving specific, ongoing, material harms. Thus, it’s of spiritual importance to me to continuously challenge my relationship to the unknown and unperceived, and to develop practices with which I can do so. Poetry is absolutely one of these practices.

My spirituality is informed by folk religious practices that my familial and spiritual ancestors shared with their communities. I am a practicing animist. My practice requires the belief that I have real, material relationships with all beings, whether I like it or not, whether I perceive it or not. I believe I am responsible for my roles and actions within those relationships, and I am responsible for how my choices impact those I am in relationship with.

These beliefs brought me into a way of living that blurred some relational categories I’d taken for granted. For example, I have a more impactful understanding as myself (as supposed “consumer”) in relationship with water (as supposed “resource”). Water is not a thing I am entitled to own or control, but an entity whose past, present, and future are simultaneously connected to my past, present and future and the past, present, and future of all beings, too. How will I honor these relationships? That question reminds me that all liberations and all injustices are connected. Every time I feel thirst, I may immediately reach for a glass of water. But the people of Palestine in Gaza have been denied access to clean drinking water for over four months. I am in relationship with the water only some of us have access to, and with the people of Palestine, and with the government representatives I will write to tomorrow again to remind them that the people of Palestine have been denied access to clean water for over 4 months now, and that I as their constituent demand that they use their privilege to act against genocide. I am in relationship with the corporations and institutions I have the power to boycott in support of justice. I think the spiritual can be found in the connections of all relationships.

Related to the above, I made a major change in my relationship to poetry. After years of experiencing intense panic, shame, and anxiety about writing and publishing poetry, I realized that I was living in relationship to poetry with myself as consumer and poetry as resource. As if poems were things to productively consume, and publications were things that would prove I was a person of productivity, which I equated with worthiness. Every time I tried to write, I brought those relational values to the page. After seven years of this hell, I no longer loved poetry–not because I stopped believing in the magic and power of poetry, but because I was not giving poetry appropriate respect, love, and care. I decided to stop writing and publishing poetry, and to focus on working to repair my relationship to poetry by reading and remaining in community with poets, and to make amends to poetry.

One part of this amends, as an animist, means saying “thank you” out loud whenever I read a poem. I thank the spirits of the poet, the poem, and poetry, too. Sometimes, now that I have more days where I feel close to poetry and not estranged, I wonder if one of poetry’s forms is like fungus, or lichen–multiple, liminal, actively strange, impossible to separate into selves/others without compromising our truthful understanding of its nature.


DC: In a 2013 interview with Gulf Coast Magazine, you mentioned being terrified of making magic from bare speech and written-down language. And since then, you’ve built an incredible oeuvre of magic & music within your poetry. I’m curious if you remain terrified of this process or of this possibility of the magical emanating from bare speech. What is it about this possibility of magic & bare-speech that is fear inducing? Additionally, I wonder what role fear presently holds in your work, and how you relate to fear as a poet & human being.


Lo: My first reaction to this question was, “Crap, I’m afraid of re-reading that Gulf Coast interview!” I did re-read, and what I meant when I wrote that was: Speaking out makes me feel afraid.

To finally feel the truth of something and to feel like I must express this or else betray what it means to be human–that, to me, is speaking out, and is also my personal experience of poetry. Speaking out is uncomfortable because it renders me and others accountable, and accountability can change everything. Often this change involves criticism, rejection, abandonment, and material loss. I think this process is magical not despite but because of those risks. However, today I would say that speaking out is to be embraced not because it is magical but because it is ethical. I try to remember that every time I go to write something and feel discomfort at the thought that somebody might read it or hear me say it, that this is an appropriate, correct way to feel. Discomfort surrounding accountability is no longer an acceptable reason for me to turn away from a project. Instead, the fear response is an important sign that I should continue working with whatever it was that made me feel afraid of accountability.

A crucial piece that helped me shape my thoughts above is
“On Speaking Out” by Daniel José Older.


DC: With the “POET IS WORKING” story in mind, do you think a poet is every able to “stop” working—even when we are not physically writing, we seem to be at work. Even resting is a part of the process. The process never ends, ha! Is there any distinction in your mind between your craft on the page, and your life away from the page? Is there a felt duality here, or is there more of a unification between your life & your poems? How do these interact with each other, for you?

Lo: Are poets ever disengaged from the process of poetry? I believe that everything, absolutely everything is or can be poetry. I do not believe that anyone is ever really separated from poetry!

Here are some questions this topic inspires:

        What value does work hold for you in your life?

        What is the relationship between what you identify as “your work” and your writing?

        What value does rest hold for you in your life?

        What is the relationship between your rest life and your writing?

        How do you know when you are writing?

The sole distinction I used to think was the difference between “writing on the page” and “life away from the page” was having enough time to write. Ten years ago, I had embarrassing amounts of free time and minimal responsibilities. I had multiple days a week where I had 3-4 hours straight to write. I was in very bad spiritual condition and no matter how much I wrote, I felt terrible about it. These days I feel lucky when I have a full hour during which I can descend into the work, and despite feeling that my time is no longer my own, I’ve never felt happier or more connected to art. Some of my best writing last year was done in the pick-up line at school, in the parking lot of KFC, in the kitchen waiting for water to boil. I used to fill journals and apps and to-do lists with rigid plans to better “manage” my time in order to “maximize” it. It turns out I was better served by surrendering to the spirit of poetry, who does not abide by capitalist time. Learning to care for a child was an added gift of a depth charge in this area. Realizing that not everybody receives more time in life to continue the work of writing was crucial, too.

Last year, I attended a workshop by novelist Suyi Davies Okungbowa. The workshop helped me grow my perspective and skills around caring for my life, art, and time. The workshop was designed from
his newsletter, which is one of the best-written and most generous writing newsletters. I highly recommend his non-fiction as well as fiction work.

DC: The animal world seems to be omnipotent in your YEARLING poems. Which I deeply admire, because it feels almost unnatural in many ways, with the state of technological “advancement” – that we as a species have virtually removed ourselves from the natural world, from the food chain. The presence of the speaker(s) & the evoked presence of the animal “other” becomes apparently singular, or unified. Your speaker(s) don’t ever really seem to be separated from the animal world, from the natural world. What is it about animals (human or otherwise) that fascinates you? The human connection to the animal world feels vital in your poetry. What is it about this human connection to these “other” creatures which is so vital? Why is it so seemingly difficult for us human beings to feel our animalness?

Lo: I have an easier time interacting/existing with non-human animals than with other humans! I think this is why my poems often express in the language of non-human images. When I wrote in that language, I did not feel any pressure to explain myself.

I think one reason humans treat our connection to non-human animals as attractive and vital to explore in art is because sharing our lives and imagination with non-human animals forces us to confront the realities of relationship. And despite any wishes we might have to the contrary, to survive the future we have been creating, we will need to live relationally.

That said, the way I used animal imagery throughout YEARLING was intentionally symbolic and therefore depersonalizing. When I wrote a title that contains “Wolves in the Water” I was working towards creating an image, not writing about a specific collective of individual wolves, or even about actual wolves as a species. I seek and admire the work of writers whose art about animals is relational. One of the best pieces of writing I read in the last six months is
Jia Tolentino’s tribute to her dog, Luna, who passed in 2023. I’m also still excited about the publication of The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry, edited by Ruth Awad and Rachel Mennies, which was released by Sundress Publications in 2020 and “interrogates our lives as they’ve intertwined with humanity’s most beloved house companion.”


DC: I notice hints of the surreal woven throughout YEARLING. And I’m curious, who are the poets, writers, artists who have the biggest impact on your writing, both historically & presently? Who and/or what inspires you?


Lo: I have been privileged to be changed by the work of many more poets, writers, and artists than I name here. To focus on the scope of YEARLING, the poems of Beckian Fritz Goldberg, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Rita Dove and Lucie Brock-Broido were so important to my understanding of what poetry could be. The book would not have come to life without the work and writing of Patrice Malidoma Somé. The poet who had the biggest impact on my work is Kathy Fagan, who was my teacher before and during the time I wrote YEARLING. Having a relational connection to a poet whose art I admired changed my writing life.

Another inspiration I’d like to mention is horror. I am bowled over by how horror writers embrace structures of genre to create hyper-real, surreal spaces in which compassion can deeply and meaningfully take root. This capacity, in conjunction with the horror genre’s embrace of the viscerally felt experience for the reader, has convinced me that horror and poetry are close kin. Justin Phillip Reed recently released With Bloom Upon Them and Also With Blood: A Horror Miscellany, which I am beyond excited exists. Writers whose writing has changed my life through horror are Nathan Ballingrud, Victor Lavalle, Catriona Ward, Shirley Jackson, Stephen Graham Jones, and Octavia Butler.


DC: I consider you a poetic trailblazer. You do something that no one else can do. I guess this can be true of all poets & artists, but I don’t think it’s always true, all the time. If that makes sense. So, I’m wondering, what’s next for you? What is the next trail you plan to traverse? What are you excited about as far as your future & present endeavors?

Lo: Thank you for your kind words. I am humbled to be perceived that way and thankful for YEARLING to receive that consideration from you.

After several years working hard at caring for my relationship to writing, I am happy to say I’m currently living in right relationship with writing. I feel clearly and simply that I live to honor writing and other writers, and that when I do the work of my heart, I am one among many writers in the world. This, more than the below projects, feels like the most important exciting trail to name. I will never take for granted what it feels like to know that to survive, I must write, and not be certain if that outcome will be possible. I hope I’ll always hold compassion for others who have similar experiences.

I’ve been working the most in genre fiction. I write short stories and novellas in the storytelling languages of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. I also keep a (dormant) genre-crossing tarot blog called Little Nightporch, where I wrote short stories on a ten-day cycle based on the astrological decans and their corresponding tarot cards. I’ve been working on a book of poetry, a narrative about the life and death of Pinocchia. I have been given the chance to write poetry again! Wow.


DC: Thank you for being so generous with your time, Lo. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to momentarily factor my curiosity into your world. I wish you all the best with your current & future endeavors.


Lo: Thank you so much for your time, care, and writing. I really appreciate getting to share this space with you, and I wish you all the best, too.

Lo Kwa Mei-en is the author of The Bees Make Money in the Lion (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2016) and Yearling (Alice James Books, 2015). She lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Selected Works, Elisabeth Bletsoe



Unnamed, identified as Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

for Suzanne


Days of brief transparency, viewed through a window of ice, lifted. Powdered across the lane. Having a porous cuttle texture as if drawn “using a thin & rather scratchy nib”. A stricter regimen being currently observed, blood temporarily withdraws. Lenthay copse smokily obscure. Brittle scrapiness of reeds, bones packed tight with ar. Fish-spine delicate. A tenebrous rustle, like the breathing of books. Fields growing nothing but stones, bone white, buff white, ivory white, carved by the river Yeo, formerly the Gifle or forked one. Abounding in small flocks among the alders; a c’irm or charm indicating a tinnitus of small bells, blended, a continual weaving of waters. Angel speaks with a multitudinous voice. “Thistle-tweaker”, a conflation of thorns with the scarlet forehead becomes the iconography of crucifixion myth, ousting earlier fertile goddess affinities. Its nest a vaginal metaphor; a labyrinth of tender intricacies. Lucina, caged by the fingers of holy infants.



                               sparkling up from

                                the dried burdock heads, “a shrill

                                piping of plenty”


Sparwe, Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

for Michell


Waiting for Sylvia, who never arrived. In back of The Plume of Feathers, a narrow sanctum in hibernal state, graced by the fluttering of small lives. Mimosa racemes. Roof-angles, at variance, drawn by the impetus of the abbey tower against ever finer & finer grindings of lapis & azurite. Into depthless sky. An insistent cheeping surpasses the bells’ doxology; illicit couplings betrayed in a tremor of ivy. Naked stems of the winterstruck clematis proximate to the red bench; a simple narrative that becomes more complex; there is you, myself & many others like fingerprints among the lichen, staining. Faces that open & close. Things half-buried, annealed by frost. The inn a former mortuary, museum of autoptic secrets; no random event the disclosure of a statue of the risen Christ hidden within its walls. Sparrows gather, conductors of souls; only one human pair of eyes witnesses the child riding her trike across the flagstones. Back & forth, back & forth.



                                       high gothic letters

                                       blown by the wind; let sparrows

                                       make a nest of them


Fesaunt, Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)


A needle does not yet exist to drill these bone-ends for threading; this amulet in remembrance of the dead. Pain accepted as an explication of growth, slivers & thorns a means of securing paper-thin sections of secondary calligraphy, wetly unfolding. In leaves of hedge-maple. Flesh stutters & fails, allows ingress. Violets take root within a lattice of barbules, elegant self-assemblages of optical nanostructures. Light: as a feather. Remiges & rectrices. She waits by the blood in silence, welded to a complex geology, the inclusive hills. Dark Lane, Pink Knoll Hollow, Horse Scratch Field, everywhere a map for somewhere else, textually enriched by silts & marls, pleistocene clays. Pollarded, the countryside engineered to near riot; stirred for a bird, the lie of the land. Lawless laws.  A socket, enucleate; splanchnic cavity plangent as the recess of an ancient rebec. Tersely set aside. The spurred feet of a fallen crusader, deo non fortuna. At the foot of the page, three kings pursue their journey through a delicate landscape occupied by a dog hunting a hare. Celandine pollen, caught in the creases of the herepath, the military road.



                                          gules, a cross

                                          argent & crosier in pale

                                                                  or debruised


Larke, Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

for Luke


Was once animal. Weight of a new-born calf, living inks perfused throughout its skin. Mirabile dictu. In winter season, the wether being not to owtragios, dothe waxe wonderus fatte. Sprung out from under this weight of words, the great singing heart tore right out of it, pinned against sky. Turning a blind eye to. Sumped in ranunculus, claws of clutched light. Fugitive moments of response amongst predators & prey leave stigmata on flesh, on instinct. Quiet, quiet. Occluded memories of feint & double-bluff nest unharmed within celebrations for decayed fallstreaks of ice, hypothetically plotted. Cirrus intortus. At the perihelion, light bleeds into black, darkness widens under sparkle of whatever joy. Head over heels, nothing holds but in small things, enshrined in nitrogen, agricultural dust. Imbricate; the overlapping of leaves, of roof-tiles, a late the Abbate of Shirburne maner place, boundaries endorsed by badger latrines. Rumours of ancient deerparks recede into mythic dissolve, a “dry & sinuous valley”, a king’s grace invested in soil. Messaging via the contraplex: someone told me it was #fossilfriday @ dawn how do you sing a cluster on #dictionaryofstone. Profuse, unpremeditated, delivered soaring. Released unto the day. Echo, echo lalia la la la




                                    from yesterday’s footprint, a

                                              seed                    sprouts pale,



Cormerant, Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

for Kim B. Ashton


To kick off one’s shoes and throw them. Slipping between pleated histories at the lake’s surface, brilliant or dazzling, the coup de foudre.  Fortunately falling folded amongst these structures of unmaking, these collusions in perceptual paradox. Stunned by the flashover irrupting capillary walls in arborescent erythema; keraunographic markings reveal the pathologies of lightning, a dermal feathering. To covet the silk of your downpourings; calculations in drowning, weighed down by little stones:  I have called you by name, you are mine, when you pass through the waters I will be with you. Breathing our stories into each other’s mouths, reaffirming mutual tales of origin. Stuck in the craw. Bloodlines drawn across the lawns; a thumbnail splitting the stems of genealogical daisy-chains, she’s reading for the part of kate in the shrew (o mother); a screwing down of migrainous clouds, spreading stain of strawberry ice. Time’s passage in fond, undigested lumps. A hem of bindweed, woundwort & pendulous sedge, stitched into. Lap of a wave to the hand, and. No less liquid than.



                                  black rainbow dive: mercurial

                                       bubbles escape the murder-beak, dark

                                                                                     mucoid throat


Wrenne, Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

for Chris T.


Slightly curved downwards, faintly marked wavy, narrow bars of wavy darker indistinctly spotted amongst wreckage. Rump reddish. Crevices & holes of rock, sprouting, lopped. Nimrod being lost in Orion & Osyris in the Doggestarre, within accidental collections of dead leaves, leaf-corbels. Four-fold equations of cryptic perspectives through; studded, fallen, scrolled off the wall of banded wavy. Ladymasse, lullen, luvely. Russeting surrounds a deep stem basin, depository of song. Resounds & cries out against. Epicuticular wax particles embedded, rephrasing the static of stretched light over wavy bars of ridge & furrow. White slipped medieval tiles. Brought down by sticks & stones, forks & knives; an arrow’s insert between leg bone & tendon. By the year’s wheel turning to manifold trickles. Legacies of overnight cloud, cyclone Eva unwinding the water’s chains. Wroth silver pays homage to the branched god, resplendent in deciduous velvet, commyth agayne from dethh to lyff in his whyght skynne. Trifoliate cusping & radiant outward in problematic scratches, deeply; though he be little, deeply reinscribed. Cutty, close-sitter, jarring jubilous.


                                    dark sparkles through

                                             tracery with small angelic




I, VII Landscape from a Dream, by Elisabeth Bletsoe (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2008); Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets, ed. Carrie Etter (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2010)

I Ornithology composed by Kim B. Ashton, piano Clare Hammond

XIII LPB Micro#6 illustrated by Frances Hatch, produced by Steven Hitchins, 2013; Molly Bloom 10, ed. Aidan Semmens

XIV The Lonely Crowd 7, guest poetry editor Chris Cornwell

XV, XVII The Fortnightly Review 06/2018, ed. Peter Riley

These works were published in Birds of the Sherborne Missal by Elisabeth Bletsoe (Shearsman Books Ltd., Swindon, 2021) to celebrate a unique landscape. They were inspired by a fifteenth century manuscript which contained the text and music with which to conduct the Christian Mass throughout the year at Sherborne Abbey, in Dorset. It is unique for its remarkable marginal series of naturalistic birds, most of which are native to the area and often given their dialect names. These are mainly to be found in the central pages, appropriately where there is also inscribed musical notation. The missal’s lavish scale and decoration served to emphasise the town’s spiritual pre-eminence.

In this poem-cycle, each bird was observed in its native habitat within the boundaries of the Sherborne diocese and then linked back to the missal by means of religious iconography, imagery relating to books, pigments or methods of illumination as well as bird mythology, the latter often subverting the original Christian intention.  The Japanese haibun was loosely employed as its form is well suited to nature-notes and the similar sized blocks of text were visually pleasing, echoing the blocks of heavy Gothic script. The accompanying haiku allowed for a brief word-sketch of the bird or its surroundings, which literally illuminated the whole.


Elisabeth Bletsoe is currently the curator of Sherborne Museum in her native county of Dorset, England. Her publications include Landscape from a Dream (Shearsman, 2008) and Pharmacopoeia & Early Selected Works (Shearsman, 2010).  She has featured in various anthologies including Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets, ed. Carrie Etter (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2010), The Ground Aslant: An Anthology of Radical Landscape Poetry, ed. Harriet Tarlo (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2011) and more recently The Edge of Necessary: an Anthology of Welsh Innovative Poetry 1966-2018, eds. John Goodby and Lyndon Davies (Aquifer Books, 2018). Elisabeth is currently involved with the artist Frances Hatch, providing textual responses to her collages in the exhibition/publications Drawn to Antarctica and Chesil Moons. She has also collaborated with the Cambridge composer Kim B. Ashton who has set several poems from Pharmacopoeia and Birds of the Sherborne Missal to music for piano and full orchestra.


Rightly admired for her ingenious lexical device, she is skilled at blending dialectical vernacular with specialised terminologies from the natural sciences, historiography, folklore and taxonomy...her synthesis of heterogeneous glossaries lends a deeply nuanced interplay between laminate aesthetics in the bricolage, unlocking a range of associated impressions at the foundation of these resonant meditations. (Chris Cornwell, The Lonely Crowd, 2017)