The Asylum Fields

All the itinerant
shadows of a man’s quiet hope dissected
and his guts laid open for the crows.
But see the place: varicose, unmaintained,
pot-ridden and bike-butchering, restless
for a perfect wreck. The woods, particalised
and parsed into legends, recrop where crow
is left unfettered, and their scares are gunshot
silenced, and the farms clutter with soiled wrecks
of tractors, and the farmer scares his shadow.
The foiled camp at Marston, and the rail-tracks
rutted and deserted, the ruined barns
stumped and deserted.
Oh but the crows, crows
that cawp and nest and carp at us always.
Or not at us. Perhaps they simply are
about us, or we about them, and they
forget us. Until we idly pop at them.

We walked askew the old sheep path—the heat
stifled so, even the cirrocumuli
sweltered apart, and the light, ever-
so diffuse, condensed from wisps, from halos,
and the terraced trees took sour breaths, sucking
back their shades, wisps of cool creeping to bark.
An index of the sun for a second
through your hand played the scabbed and clotted earth:
filigreed shadows, clotted tracks of mixed blood
creeping to bark—not light, the shadow of
your fingers raised to my hand, smelted back
to earthy matts of like tone, like shade, and closed.

I was grateful for it then – birding next
to my old man, roofing his wide tongue
and twittering, though he didn’t stroke
his whiskers as I’d hoped, and he smiled: lord,
his eyes was thick as honey—not bright. Here
I walk the thinned streets, and call the birds to
echo me, with that avian persistence
of a ringtone. A decoy, p’rhaps, tho I
do not have a gun. And they are mimics:
squirming into the flesh of our clipped sound,
which we wired in their electric image.
You could say it is a shame, perhaps – like
the diminished thicket – a turning dream
dystopic. A shame p’rhaps, a decoy.
It could be called a sweet reciprocation—
I would say a method of renewal.
And in renewal an urbane recital
of the roman road that mountain or grove
or tribe cannot stop. And I stop at the
old camp where my parents met, and I stop
where the new model town will be built up
over the grim ash of their meeting—me
the product of their model meeting.
Still, the signposts come – come out with abandon
from Littleton to Welford back,
to protest —
In Stratford town, tripped like a split second
on the kerb in the vague division when
the tours recede, the pavements buckled beneath
my drinking; and now, far gone, unbuckling
of my gropings by riverbanks and alleys.
This was all a patchwork map of errors
the same bounced-check of our ancient demesne –
I cannot dream of arcadian days.
I cannot dream of light or dark or grey.

This light abbreviates, stumps the digits
of wheat branding the lane, here hedgeless.
There is a certain angle when the sun
in late summer elongates the shadows,
extending sluggishly through afternoon
until, at fourteen feet, they cross the road
and pulse in flamenco along the grey,
potholed strip that bursts with grass at the seams.
They run this circuit for a month: extend
across themselves, clench beneath the mid-point,
and turning, open in a tortuous strum,
imposing an incongruous music
on the scene for a wild hour’s crescendo—
until they curl back, quiet, into themselves.


Projected Letters is a literary magazine dedicated to publishing the best new and established writing from around the world.