Two poems from Patrick Errington’s Second Hand
followed by a note on the author
They told me as a child to be exact with pain.
Nurse it, they’d instruct, in the swaddling folds
of your brain, in the clay. Let it seed and shiver
out, vein you, plot the skin like an empire
blushes a schoolroom map. I’d not listen. But I have
so much of Alexandria in me, my body, an atlas
cedar at the core, bright as ribbon lightning, little
leafed, or bare, or budding. They have their voices, still,
but no breath, their mouths now forgetting, songbirds
for teeth. Listen. I’m mining down beneath my ribs,
scarring for that scar I stem from. I can so nearly feel it,
a lost city, and a wild of cedar gathered about my skin.
I will make this the new mouth of me. Grackles, soon
will shiver along my lips. I have so much to tell you.
They Don’t Make Gods for Non-Believers
When I tell him I’m dying, my doctor says I’ll die
years and years from now if I’m careful, so I will
die, then, I say, but carefully. After all, if it’s worth
doing then it’s got to be worth doing carefully
and my doctor agrees (he should). All the same
you can be too careful, which is why I see him far less
than is, quote-unquote, prudent. My doctor, I mean, not
God. Him, I see so much more than should a devout
non-believer. But never where I expect to – great
storms, great losses and the like. Rather in the pale
residues left behind latex gloves, or the soft patience
of a painkiller. Maybe it’s a sign I’m approaching
the end. Or it may just be the perfunctory depression
of my tongue again, the requisite ah. Ah, as though
comprehending. But let’s face it, comprehension’s
not the issue. I mean, I can comprehend, like glass,
that light, with all its grit and sine, comes apart
into colour, but that hardly warms this halogen, hardly
amounts to understanding. My doctor thinks his is
a look of understanding, with all that plastic wisdom
of sign and symptom, but understanding nothing
of mine. Between you, me, and my god, my God
I’ve got a lot to cower from. Which, I guess, means
I should put faith in one of us. But Him I don’t trust
any more than my doctor, or me, or any more
than anyone else so reliant on terror in their acolytes,
shivering and braille-skinned, deaths confessed to
and calendared. He laughs at my swithering, hands
swaddled in the too-white light, reading my body,
asking who I’ll speak to while I write this, kneeling,
pages closing more quietly than hands on the bed.
Patrick James Errington is a poet and translator from the prairies of Alberta, Canada. Winner of several international competitions, his poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2016, The Iowa Review, The London Magazine, The American Literary Review, Diagram, The Adroit Journal, Horsethief, and West Branch. A graduate of Columbia University’s MFA programme, Patrick currently lives in Scotland, where he is a PhD researcher at the University of St Andrews.
Leaving Alexandria first appeared in West Branch.
They Don’t Make Gods for Non-Believers first appeared in The London Magazine.