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Joel Lane, from The Autumn Myth

Presumed Dead

If they come back — from the wastes of alcohol,
obscurity or madness — they come back alone.
Their scars masked by oddly placed silences
or facial hair. A blankness in their eyes
that their smiles never touch, from when
they hit the roadblock of middle age at ninety
miles an hour, like Kowalski in Vanishing Point.
Sometimes clutching an unpublished book, a personal
organiser, or (God help us all) a new faith.

You're glad to see them, at first. They outlive
the comeback, start trying to settle scores;
turn up at Party meetings with documents
you need tunnel vision to read; lose the same
battles they lost the first time, but harder.
This time they're in it for the duration: taut
and acrid, hand-rolled, always gleaming
with the failure that clings to them like gelatine
on the cheapest tinned meat, a version of spam.