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The Anamnesiologist.


after Susanna Clarke


Someone who recovers what’s been lost,
has committed to the steady and dubious art
of unforgetting, ways of being, blind spots
we didn’t know to compensate for, weight
no one thought to infer, things without a name
in our language. Someone whose own lives
are many, and that many again, ad nauseam.

Lewis Hyde was right, forgetting is life giving,
a merciful release. The language authored
by everyone who ever passed through it.
Hence its genius and ability to outcompass
as well as failure to touch. Machines remember
on our behalf but only what we tell them.
Axiomatic that memory, like water, energy,
can’t be destroyed. You have to be somewhere.


A bare and beautiful wooden table, sizeable
with polish and imperfection, scratches, a tiny
horseshoe. The tablecloth planes as it descends,
ready for still life. I choose inedibles, tokens,
gifts, makeweights, keepsakes. I set like cutlery
the halves of an ammonite you gave me years ago,
dropped at the weekend when it broke in two like a prop.
Which stunned me into silence. A worse one.
Of all invented things (Eco) a spoon can’t be improved.
Do you remember the quote? I’ve not done it justice.
You read it off my open book on the way to the kettle
with real delight in your voice. Of all invented things.


Room lit by an ammonite, a paperweight
that shares a surface with a splayed paperback,
its ridged spiral sending out even as it tightens,
like a juicy thought. And where is this room?
Not somewhere I’ve been, a recombination,
bits and pieces that I (presumably) improvise.
I pad around in sock feet and know I’m asleep.
Aren’t books supposedly blank in dreams?
You were the reader I wished I was, fast,
voracious, plucker of killer pith, the tutor
to those around you who would clamour
or fixate in a way I know all too well
(you enlightened me) is wearyingly male.


Gompy’s cottage is for sale again, RightMove,
and the cooking apple tree has gone.

On bright mornings I’d bring out faces with a finger
and some muddy water. Its branches
came near the bedroom as if imparting something.
Windfall at night was heavy, heartstopping.

You and I parked up and took a photo from the gate,
the threshold. Their garden chairs and laid table,
new planting in the beds. Did you detect
anything of my concentric selves,
turning bricks for insects, hanging off a rope ladder?

Little fish, you said, know nothing about the water.


Entirely interior, too long in one hemisphere,
I start to detune. In all your worthless gold. The future
dead. New medicine stumbled upon
by robots. Blue statues. A noonday
demon. An eye in the soil.
I root myself at the open window.

Bright mist is a rebuke to background noise,
the unbrokenness, the glare, this early, deliver you.

What you best know has its roots in you.
The modest return of Mount Caburn,
its russet jottings and mutes of scree.
Or how sandalwood, in wet enough hands,
turns of its own accord.


Yves Bonnefoy said a poet shows you a tree
in the moment before you know what it is.
It’s open, the raw material of dreams.
It has back its grue, bole-mask, limbs.

Did I only show you what you already knew?
A carriage wheel propped on a blind lintel,
crumbs of soil, the pink sun trap wall,
a felled but vividly remembered tree.

We have to reduce to communicate,
choose first, omit. Pain can be enough
to infer a previous life.
We looked to each other when we laughed.

JAMES PEAKE’s third full-length collection of poetry is due to appear in 2025. His work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Wild CourtNU ReviewRacemeThe Spectator, Anthropocene and Bad Lilies. He lives in East Sussex and works in independent podcasting.

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