“Antler” by John Clegg

by on 26/02/13 at 9:25 am

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This was the empire of antler,
walrus ivory, soapstone and marten furs;

this was a choked democracy
around a marketplace where local kings

of seven lakes or less demanded
garrisons; this was a trading post

where silverscrap and Arab coins
by weight changed hands for whalebone.

This is a town below the mud
where ninety graves so far have been

disturbed: soldiers on stools,
two children end to end, a seamstress

wrapped in leather, seal-
hunters, shamen, priests, and one

clutching a shinbone notched
in what is now an undeciphered language.

Photograph by Alice Mullen

Photograph by Alice Mullen

“I must have been waiting for a poet to fuse deep sincerity and irony, craft and process, the surreal and the historical, because I read this twice in one sitting, fizzing with jealousy. Clegg’s poetry is a must. And while he may be well-versed in the cutting edge of literary theory, he’s even better versed in the classics. Beautifully crafted utterly contemporary. His work makes me feel the way I felt when I first read the New York School, or tasted pistachio flavour icecream, or the house-lights dimmed.” —Luke Kennard

Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert is founder of E-Verse Radio.

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