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‘Excavation’ and two more poems.





Its slow entombment in that shining field
should have been irreversible.

Perverse, to dig it up
in the service of proof
like breaking apart a body turned to salt
in search of the long-gone soul.

Some might see it
as a necessary rise—
the gradual ascendance of its bones

from the primeval ocean
to the chalk-veined heart
of Middle-England.

The skull emerging
after a record year for rain
as the very embodiment of the dragon.


Mathematical intertwinements of heads and tails
swarm the vaulted ceiling
the beauty of their illumination
rooted in blood.

Like monk-made books adorned with hunting hounds:
unthinkable desires
sunk in tempered elegance.

This mannered sublimation
mirrored in every aspect down below;
trussed-up gamebirds, swimming
in jugs of their own innards

knives arrayed
in diminishing rows—
for every stage, the proper implement.


All night the storm was howling. In its wake
a clutch of deckchairs scattering the lawn
and all the rooftiles broken. There are days

when even gravity acquires the weight
of something other. When the sight
of flowers lying limply in the dirt

is hard to bear. Beyond the wall
the sense of something moving; flickering
to nothing in the shadow of the trees.


In rooms and rented studies I have lain
for hours, trying uselessly to grasp
the care with which a leopard shifts its tongue
to gentle an ear

and why the gentling matters. Even now
I hold the hope that you might lift me clear.

The muscles losing traction, running fluid
the way a dream unspools—like quick-tipped tar;
the whole of the veranda
sticky with heat.


Relative to the swift execution of an antelope
the damage is insignificant—much of the scaffolding endures
and down in the cellar

the glasses are still cool
to touch and press.

When the weather clears further
it might even be possible to take a walk among the gardenias;
lifting and righting their heads.

Anna Forbes is from Edinburgh. She studied at King’s College London, where she received a degree in comparative literature. She is currently working towards an MLitt at the University of St Andrews, and is a recent winner of the Jane Martin Prize for poetry.

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