‘Silken demon’: Two Animal Poems
This week in The Clearing two poems by Holly Corfield-Carr and Polly Atkin journey into the night to find species both familiar and exotic.
by Holly Corfield-Carr
OOOOoOOOOAs she takes the corner into Cannock Chase,
she sees a red moon wobbling over conifer,
OOOOOOOOOnervous retinal scan of the night’s blind eye
turning against the wood as she turns here,
OOOOOoopropels through high beam like a comet reversed
and lancing the dark, like the moth’s green meteor
OOooover the windscreen, like the neon tubing of deer eyes
at the roadside, the fast pelt into fern as she passes,
OOOOOsitting in her own pocket, continually turning itself
inside out onto tarmac in a trail of oil and hot air,
OOOOOstill cut with all her mis-sung lines and fart and half
of all her uplit conversations.
OOOOoOOShe bowls downhill. The red tops of the conifers
wince shut the bloodshot moon and the whole
OOOOOoOOOOObrutal fuss of the forest is gone. She sings
her heart out. Closes her eyes. Drives.
OOOOOOOOooOAhead and from behind the dark tarpaulin,
the deer toes the edge of the road, bright strip
OOOOOooOof heat, stands to shake the night from her back,
listening to the overlapping lunacy of the birds
OOOOOoooowhen the light skewers her. And she holds her
face in the half cup of her hands on the wheel,
OOOooOOOthe brace of her reflection over her animal face,
a sudden, illegible selenelion —
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooOwhich is two bodies reminding
OOOOOOOOOOOOOeach other they are bodies
PROPITHECUS CANDIDUS, 1871
by Polly Atkin
When your spirit returns its shape is revealed
by a fuzzed white halo – iron filings
in negative – tracing your moving field
through the trees. Your face is concealed, only
your eyes and voice blare out. Night
gloves your fingers, muffles the putt
of your landing, soft, outside their door.
Sleeping, they are not frightened of you.
They do not know you, or what you will mean.
Your seven songs.
OOOOOOOOYour hushed leap.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOYour ancestors’ journey.
You have none of the cunning of my species, silken
demon. You never learn to attack
or run. You watch through lenses of dim
fire like the embers of forests, mark
your place and are gone. As quick as a continent
shuffles north, as an ocean gyre
shifts to reverse.
0000000000From an unknown height
you howl the lament of the restless dead.
Your strange trajectory.
OOOOOOOYour sweepstake hypothesis.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOYour solitary territory.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOYour dynamo hum.
Holly Corfield Carr is based in Bristol and Cambridge where she is working on a PhD in site-specific writing. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2012 and the Frieze Writer’s Prize in 2015. Her pamphlet MINE, documenting a series of performances in an eighteenth-century crystal grotto, was published by Spike Island in 2014.
Polly Atkin’s second poetry pamphlet Shadow Dispatches (Bridgend: Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize, 2012, and was shortlisted for the Lakeland Book of the Year, 2014. In June 2014 she was awarded New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Prize, for work in progress which ‘reflects a strong sense of place or the natural environment’. Her poem ‘A short history of the moon’ won the 2014 Wigtown Poetry Prize. She lectures in English Studies at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow). She is currently completing her first full collection of poetry, and a monograph exploring the connections between Romantic legacies, contemporary creativity, ecopoetics, tourism and place.