A. B. Jackson

Three poems from Apocrypha


Bed-head Lazarus, at breakfast:
three Embassy Regal, tea so strong
you could trot a mouse on it.

To his bare barrel chest, a rag
embroidered with Do Not Disturb
was butterfly-stitched.

Nettle cheese omelette, French
toast with field mushrooms,
three more furious cigarettes.

Manifest ailments: eye-gum,
heart overrun with Japanese knotweed,
cock not worth a docken.

Mist burned off. Honey bees fussed
religiously, as usual, over roses.



Adam lay miraculous,
unconscious with drink.
In a dream, he named whiskies

by nose, palate, finish:
brine and limes, a delicate
peat-reek, Weetabix.

Plasticine, emulsion paint,
amyl nitrate. A warm horse.
Kippers, treacle toffee, grassy

with green grape …
the work was endless.
Jalapeno peppers, tobacco notes …

Adam rose with a rough tongue
and heartbroken.



Balding, young Noah
constructed a classic comb-over.
High wind signalled ruin,

impending rain. He amassed
articles on follicle health, applied
pigeon dung paste,

pomades of hippopotamus fat,
black Andalusian foal urine.
The more elusive ingredients

took jungle-time and steel traps,
an array of live bait, his life
regime and rumour.

Markets rose. Bullet-head Noah
floated his beauty empire.




John Berryman

Address to the Lord

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
‘According to Thy will’ the thing begins.
It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.

You have come to my rescue again & again
in my impassable, sometimes despairing years.
You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves
and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:
How can I ‘love’ you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.
It doesn’t seem likely
from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view
but certainly all things are possible to you,

and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and to Paul

as I believe I sit in this blue chair.
Only that may have been a special case
to establish their initiatory faith.

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.

Richard Kenney


I tried lacing loss into these lines,
thinking to bind it safely there.

But when much lifetime had raced by I
saw rather

trapped in the scrag noose, too,
joy and daylight.

I bottled also bile in these poems,
thinking to isolate

the toxin. But when much lifetime had raced by I
found it on the mantel.

I thought to lower these poems into a salt dome—
stable, it’s said, for aeons.

And who isn’t one?

I tried to write invisibly,
but all lifetime is a candle.

Patrick Donnelly

Prayer after Refusing to Pray

Why, when the ferocious beauty that steers this world
has never braked for any cry of mine,

do I find myself making again, toward You
who will always do just as You please,

these motions with my lips and hands and knees,
trying to gentle Your vast wheel off the rails?

My friend is sick in the lymph behind his heart,
a monk, a teacher, Your servant, who loved You so.