The Common Flesh featured in this issue

The Imaginative Life of Writers and Social Responsibility


In previous issues:

Interview with Alison Croggon


Specula: Mirrors from the Middle Ages



To order The Common Flesh from Arc Publications

Attempts at Being from Salt


Alison is editor of Masthead




Contributor Notes

Alison Croggon
Alison Croggon


leave your absence
for those moonblind hounds
             they can't snout
shadow from shudder
                              velvet from cowpat

repair to the clean night
                            which waits you

             (for sweetness parsley
             and marjoram to drive away serpents
             and as remedy against the sour & queasy stomach)

hagridden by their own howlings
                            in thumbscrew nights
they conjure their feverings
             of phlegm-pale flesh
                            biddable to vacancies
of bridle and bitten
             of cold cunt flayed
on absolute stone

             (st johns wort the most precious remedy
             for any wound made
             with a venomed weapon
             henbane which avails
             against all botches)

but you are a lustre
             as predatory eyes
may not comprehend

                            icicle shattering always
             to its brilliant spectra
womb of lightnings

(fragrance simmering
             against the rim of speech
the bowl and the table
                            and such lilies
of the seemly and beautiful shape
             that is their own virtue)

From Translations from Nowhere

behind the baroque
             mask a blankness
inflicting itself in concentric circles
                                     she asks:

is this really my own damage
             or a wound torn in others
that they must diagnose
                                     through my skin

predictable as a tragedy
             leached of all colours
in which the painted actress
                                     pouts and blinks

such blackening tears that all response chokes
             on the absurd
ancient seductions
                                     smudging the heart

and again:     finally
             in the yellow dusk I understand
how a book opened prematurely
                                     might be a fatality

dazzling the mind's innocence
             so it forms a mirage
populous and exact in every detail
                                     while the desert breathes

livingly beneath it
             cheated of the eye
she asks again:     what is more real
                                     the life formed

out of our delusions
             in all its tender
quickness of flesh     or the vast
                                     desiring cell

that mindless replication
             swarming itself
out of its decay:     or is this
                                     not a question

the torment is always     as the woman said
             to find oneself speaking
like a bad novel     though fiction is seldom
                                     so misleading

as these selves we claim
             to live by     squatting
by middens of bones the sand
                                     scours to whiteness

damasks of civilisation
             woven by ill-used hands
rotting in those endless museums
                                     of self regard

et cetera     she asks:
             if I have been asleep
how do the pains of dream
                                     differ from waking

and how much does it matter?
             this finger on this pulse
conscious as a snail
                                     absorbing rain

* * * * * * * *

to break a silence may be fatal
             or at least injurious
but equally might startle a bower of wings
                                     out of shaded interiors
the problem is to know what kind of silence
             it may for instance be the quiet
of dusk when minds turn
             inward to the animal that whickers
starwards wonderingly and settles
                                     on loins of poetry
                                                  licking its teeth
or the wordlessness of the weary
             who study full stops becoming
what they are and who dig their
                                     dreams into the past having
             already looted the future
                                                  and found there no sweetness
or a vacancy that might be love or disgust
             but is the reverse of resignation
                                     although it may sound similar
when dogs shout their evening greetings
                                                  through the purple suburbs
or it might be simply the indifference that masks
             a loathing for inexactitude
a jeweller's morality in which all petty speech
                                     withers in shame
most perilous of all the silence
             of a stern surface shining so blindingly
                                     it frightens off words
             with their own distorted reflections
but which breaks when it breaks
                                     like glass in the raw flesh beneath it