Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Four Poems - Jos Smith w/ illustrations by Ira Joel Haber


The trap was set from the start, never will the Wolf-Man speak. Talk as he might about wolves, howl as he might like a wolf, Freud does not even listen, he glances at his dog and answers, “It's daddy.”
- Deleuze and Guattari


There comes a time when you spread your wings and step
from the family parapet and realise, they are not wings,
they were never wings, they were always only handfuls
of beads, - and you are not flying, it's all over, you're in
that fast red space of nose-break semi-unconsciousness
trying to reach a surface on loose ropes of bubbles.
Bright, hot silence. Working those limbs like a pedal-bike.

But if you remember - not that you noticed at the time,
you ran for cover, pawed the nearest lit window and lied
your way into bedrooms, drawing rooms, parlours -
if you think back, carefully, out on the periphery (can you see?)
there were six or seven white figures, luminescent,
glaring and arching their backs as you came slowly apart.
And can you feel it in your chest, that low, background growl?


There's Dad and I out in the Glyders.
We take a path up beside the waterfall into mist,
rocks hissing and rainbows wafting about.

An ice-shelf like a balcony
cracks loose in the thaw, and skids
shattering down over the water and rocks.

We are nervous. We don't see anyone all morning.
Up and up, until the climb levels out on rubble
and we hit a foot or so of snow. No compass or map.
It's cairn to cairn in the white, speeding wind;

the way those rocks point every direction
up on Glyder Fawr! like a fistful of kindling
blindly swiping this way and that in the mist.

Dad tells the story about ridge-walking with Hugh,
a rope tied between them so if one fell
the other would jump in the opposite direction.

But we don't have a rope; we are lost.
In that moment I can see right through to his childhood.
It is a very clear and beautiful thing.
We survive, though there are paw-prints about us in the snow.


Do you remember that June day
laid down on your front on the beach towel,
the sun pressing its hot hush through your hair?
Whoops, cries, gull-calls, washed
through the wind. You were half asleep.

You put an ear to the beach, prickling
with sand, and slapped down a hand, and heard
the hollowness, that cavernous boom
of the empty earth below, as if it all
might give with one false move.

It was the space between the grains of sand,
grains packed and propped against the air
vibrating freely between them;
it was the dream of a vertigo lurching
open-mouthed through the dark.

How your eyes widened. Hairs
on the back of your neck bristled hungrily;
you gulped, listening as the pressure
descended and dispersed through your veins.
You were looking up at Mum, Dad, your brother

drained of colour in the glare of the sun,
who couldn’t have been further in the din of the beach
not looking back, utterly absorbed
where they tilted and teetered on a rolling
wavecrest line of foaming light.

In the back seat, driving home, you drifted
in and out of sleep, half-aware of the boom
in the empty earth below, the background growl
reaching out through the glinting day
holding you like Mowgli in your private dark.


While the earthworms are sleeping
And the mad little gorseflowers are
Twinkling their bashful yellows
Under the greater stars this winter night

I hear a packhorse coming,
Hoof after hoof all night, heaving
A cartload of amplifiers over the fields
Flooding the air with deafening sex:

Love made in last year’s month of May
Screechings and moanings and
Yowlings of wrung-out song
Sounding like a tannoy through the mist.


He came to the house and felt redundant,
and went to the barn and the barn was busy
and they gave him a cup and they told him:
‘Bring water, cup by cup, from the river.’

The winter was long and the summer
was brilliant. He slept in the flowers and walked
in the breeze, but something wasn’t right.
They all chewed on a tough black meat,

and put this meat in the horses’ feed
till the horses went blind and couldn’t sleep.
Horses, who must run, cannot run
without sight or sleep.

One broke loose. She bolted downhill
head first into a rock-face, snapping
the gristle and bone of her neck.
He watched her buckling muscle shining

brown as she slid from the riverbank
into the river and drowned, and drowned
in the weight of her own collapse.
This hush fell over the valley.

Wind-chimes clonked on the side of the barn.
Clouds flew and flowers ruffled
as water boiled over her big blind eye.
And he could not fill his cup anymore.


Come crunch time, I’d always known
I’d holler your name for help.
Up balustrades and cobbled hills
Or over the river and into the blowing grass.

Your name alone, and soon enough
Push came to shove and the need arose
To send out that cry
Into the atmosphere.

So with all my chesty heft,
Its hollow, fibrous noise,
With all of a toe-shaking red-faced
Bellowing godless bawling out

I tried, but come crunch time
I wasn’t shouting your name at all.
Exhausted, emptied, sat on the ground,
I had forgotten the name to call.
Jos Smith lives in Exeter, Devon where he is writing a PhD looking at contemporary British and Irish landscape writing. He has had a number of poems published in small magazines and has received an Arts Council bursary for the outdoor installation 'No Man's Orchard' along the Pilgrim's Way in Kent.
Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn New York. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. His paintings, drawings and collages have been published in many on line and print magazines. Over the years he has received three National Endowments For The Arts Fellowship, two Pollock-Krasner grants and most recently in 2004 received The Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant. Currently he teaches art at the United Federation of Teachers Retiree Program in Brooklyn.


  1. everything about this post is extraordinary. brilliant poetry, brilliant illustration. you two should do an extended work together.

  2. Probably the best thing I've seen on here. Implicated, especially, is amazing - some of the words are so surprising, in a completely unselfconscious way.

  3. hear, hear. fucking awesome writing.


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