Jointing a rabbit
The colour of a newborn in the flush
of its first lungful, the corpse spread-eagled
headless on this chopping board lies helpless
under my knife. I prise liver and kidneys
from the ribbed wall they cling to, reach
into the chest for the lights.
Each time I wonder how the small lungs,
whose strawberry and white look so anaemic
beside the rest, held air enough
to power this athlete of the grasslands.
As I press down the spine with the flat of my hand
the yielding flesh turns meat.
My care, a clean cut which snaps the bone
without a splinter, my reward
the neat alignment of hindquarters, forepaws,
splayed like the two halves of a Rorschach test
each end of the torso. No fish-head eyes
to disconcert with their accusing stare.
Had I been there when this buck, ferreted,
sprang for cover into the trapping net
its flank heaving, seen the taut flesh sag
at a blow to the neck, the light go out of it,
could I so coolly toss the broken body
in seasoned flour, sear it in hot oil?
Jointing a rabbit by A.C. Clarke won First Prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2018) judged by Roger Elkin
Why is Saint Sebastian so blithe?
He does not flinch as arrows puncture him
So tastefully through trunk and limb.
He does not groan, he does not writhe.
The expression of the archers is more grim.
One aims a crossbow (not invented yet,
But deadly accurate). He does not fire his dart
Unerringly at the martyr’s heart.
Have the bowmen been told to drag it out
So that the victim is fit material for art?
How can Sebastian stay so serene?
He seems to stand there and to meditate,
Strapped to a tree and stoically wait
For the next barbed shaft to whistle in.
Is this what makes a saint? To yield to fate
With superb indifference? Is it God’s grace
That lets a tormented man display no agony?
I have seen men die in pain and not go quietly.
The saint seems already in a far-off place.
Or is he stoned on hash or heroin or LSD?
But all transcendence cannot be a trick
Nor can we distort truth by being frivolous
Or downplay disaster when it’s racking us.
Take a style too far and it turns slick.
But not all posture is powerless.
The squad of soldiers grasp what it is about:
They have a man to torture and to sanctify,
His job to take the piercing pain and die,
To earn eternity by not crying out.
Death is the route. The blessed arrows fly.
Saint Sebastian by Rory Brennan won Third Prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2018) judged by Roger Elkin
‘What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure’ – Twelfth Night
This photo shows three girls on a July day –
Feste, Viola and Andrew Aguecheek.
Their final term. Their very last school play.
Ahead of them, the brave new worlds they seek.
Feste brims with joy in her jester’s coat,
her eyes alight with laughter. Her stance is bold,
as if she wants to seize life by the throat
and gather up the future’s promised gold.
Andrew looks downcast. She stands on her own,
sword in scabbard, blonde hair trailing like weeds
beneath her hat. Intelligence alone
won’t be enough, she fears. It’s love she needs.
A boyish Viola in red and green
proclaims the power of passion to entrance
and conquer. As yet untouched by ‘might-have-been’,
she vows to follow poetry and romance.
Now, I look at them with time the only
lens. Viola’s dream remains a sham.
Andrew’s a professor but still lonely.
Feste drowned herself in the River Cam.
Present Mirth by Doreen Hinchliffe was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2018) judged by Roger Elkin