Skip to content

Snapshot, Sachsenhausen

and three more new poems.

By Peter Blair.

Snapshot, Sachsenhausen

This is me in the execution trench —

under the automatic gallows
in front of the bullet-stopper,
knotting a silk scarf
as you shoot, suspend
and capture me.

In that panopticon, we can’t have
missed the concrete obelisk and fractured
phial, the hanging-pole that dislocated
joints, the prone rack that offered kidneys
to the fatal blow.

Outside, at the bratwurst van, we still could
taste the gnawed spoon and gouged enamel
bowl, stashed in a waistband
against skin barely pitted
by a navel.

Each pocked concavity
sunken in the next.

This final depression
terrible relief.



Its windshield is widescreen flat,
its riot-grille graph paper
on which a brow’s furrow
plots the rising tension.


On the dual carriageway
the four-by-fours
go two by two
to cul-de-sac and car ferry.


By Buttermere
a Land Rover grazes,
nudging across
a corrugated field.


After ten days of driving north,
our route a dot-to-dot
of visitor centres and viewpoints,
we have had enough
of audio-visual ‘experiences’
and ‘living history’ re-enactments,
of ears muffled
with Alice-band guides
that clamp slowly tighter
until ‘artefact’ and factoid fuse.
We have had our fill
of tea rooms and gift shops,
of tartanned-up, taste-o’ tat,
of being told
what to take in and take away,
where and how to look.

At Boreraig, where we walk,
there is no re-creation
of the buyings- and burnings-out,
no plaque.
Only the lichened gabbro
of cabins razed to sheep pens
or floor plans
recalls clansmen banished
by landlords and flockmasters,
the government coffin-ship
that sailed from Campbeltown
for the New World.
A clutch of rabbit droppings
lies like lead-shot
on close-cropped grass.
We disturb a ewe
from a jambless threshold,
all this rising from
her hot, unpolished turd.


The cold fires of autumn:
burnt bushes, burnished leaves,
fallen images.

Barefoot, I walk on
fading coals, my mantra
Cool wet grass, cool wet grass,

Cool.  Wet.  Grass.


PETER BLAIR grew up in Belfast. He teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Chester, with research interests in South African literature and flash fiction, and is founding co-editor of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. His own writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including as a runner-up in the Bridport Prize (short story), the Fish Prize (poem), and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. In 2021, he was Very Highly Commended in the Irish Short Story of the Year category of the Irish Book Awards.

Image credit: Sachsenhausen brick wall by Garrett Graham.

One Comment

  1. wrote:

    Powerful, beautifully-crafted poems. Thank you, Peter

    Monday, 22 January 2024 at 14:44 | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *