Size / / /

In a car-park in Leicester

You have never believed in this degree of nakedness
being anything akin to purity,
although it stands to reason, now, that it must.

In dust-masks and coveralls, rustling, crouched
in your white forensic tent, you can't be the only one
worrying over smallpox, over plague,
wondering at a kind of improbable persistence
at dark miracles uncovered
at musty spores
at revenge.

Consider the thickness of soil 
think smothering, think Vesuvian
scattered at first, layered with words,
then shovelled, frantic.
Again, silent.
Left to silt and slide between his ribs
and settle about the small round bones of his spine.

Think thin smoke,
burned books and something aflame
just over the distance, over the castle walls.

Air that's the same as the air that drifts
(or drifted) up a spiral staircase 
it echoes the same, or almost, now,
mechanical and tinny, like the mythic radio ping
shuttling back and forth in its atmospheric layers,
an echoed legend, a sleepless, soft-footed troubadour,
the looped love song of lost pilots,

distinct, carrying like the voices of boys,
voices young enough to sound like bells and curls,
like slippers and bowled hoops,
running steps and stopped steps, laughter
and the total absence of a concept of time, a real one,
one beyond boredom and the sure inkling
of when a game should naturally end.

Imagine the sharp hum of halberds, gleaming and fantastical,
fit to twist a man from a horse and to slice a skull like 
well, like nothing you've seena perfect circle,
edge smooth and clean as polished marble, new
and shocked by air, by everything,
by the leaking out and spilling in,
the cold unroofing air.

Air with a weight to it that isn't just microbial,
mist-dark, chain-mail and mud.
Tart to the tongue, now, weightless
and strange with nothing he'd know as scent,
a distant magnetism that doesn't come from metallic hills,
from soil made coppery with blood,
with swords and hammered icons.

Time meets part-way.
This was death, always has been death,
so long hidden and now rushed, undone.
This muddled, flooding time
running down like small steps on stairs
it is not death,
not any more, at all.

The tent roofs him, flaps a little, covers all your bent heads
and gloved hands, the small, utilitarian hooks and vanished heart.
Think how much it might take to have a man from then stop praying
Because a brush, however fine, is not pity
not tenderness
not reproach
but simply a brush.




Jude Alford is a poet and writer from Sydney, Australia.
Current Issue
23 Nov 2020

Everybody thinks at first that time has somehow been reversed.
By: Michael Bazzett
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Michael Bazzett
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Michael Bazzett's “The Revisionist,” with a reading by the poet.
Gollum suffers from the stigma that all users who don’t have the luxury and wealth to maintain social appearances do.
And I feel like there are just so many layers to Popsicle Pete.
Our fantasy and science fiction structure exists in a system that tries to convince its inhabitants that the world is binary, that everything is the group that is Us, and everything else, which is Them.
Issue 16 Nov 2020
By: Cat Aquino
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
By: Michael Chang
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 9 Nov 2020
By: Miyuki Jane Pinckard
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 2 Nov 2020
By: Allison Mulvihill
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ali Trotta
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 19 Oct 2020
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Aber O. Grand
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 12 Oct 2020
By: Elisabeth R. Moore
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Stephanie Jean
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 5 Oct 2020
By: J.L. Akagi
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Lesley Wheeler
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Lesley Wheeler
Issue 28 Sep 2020
By: Maggie Damken
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 21 Sep 2020
By: Aqdas Aftab
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: David Clink
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 14 Sep 2020
By: Fargo Tbakhi
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jenny Blackford
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 7 Sep 2020
By: Catherynne M. Valente
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Bethany Powell
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Bethany Powell
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