Mark Saunders


Framed in a plastic chair
laid out rust brown paint-splash-like beside the judo
mats, not contemplating suicide, with a book
on prescription, thinking

I’m trying to read

how the chequered black on
gray makes a board game with my son a piece at play
within, with thin red tied squarely round his waist, white
beneath, gripping yellow then blue at changeovers.
Pupils lock, bow, then fight against their symmetry,
the school a Rothko or part-Mondrian, clashing.
He catches my eye, grins

watch this, Dad

in place on the canvas,
arm outstretched: a photographic memory snapped
at impact, the hand slaps

ukemi – breakfall –

everything from now
a split second later and colder in truth, with
only the ghost of the memory of the heat
of the moment. The opposing wall brings into
focus something lifelike, the glossed paintwork cross-hatched
and dark-bordered, monstrous. Above the faint buzzing
in my head, a whisper,

it’s a hook

a trick of the light makes
two fluorescent tubes and a picture pin insect-
like, throwing down silhouettes of gauzy shadow
wings, giving the illusion of relief. They’re not
about to sting or bite us, the thoughts left hanging
there, the indistinct shapes.


Breakfall by Mark Saunders received a Special Mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2019) judged by Oz Hardwick

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