Daniel Sluman




You reel her into your arms 
like the most beautiful fish
promises    burning through
the bones    you suck 
peppermint from her tongue
& pull her hard into the linen
of your jacket   her lashes curl
& you clench tight    can smell
the lake in her hair as her childhood
starts to wind itself up        the kites
she traced with her father   smoothing
from her sweetheart neckline   & startling
the pale sky   as all the greasy graphite 
sketches  she scratched from the high-rise 
flat blown wide with poverty     fatten into full
blooming Crayola lines    the colour of her 
fantasies dulled under the gravity 
of their own want     spilt down
her razor-bitten shins   but you barely
notice   you love her so much    so maybe
it’s when you say Marie?   & she is still
you realise how cold   she has been
so cold for years     her eyes buffed pale
dry hair caught under your nails
& you wonder if she screamed 
with the little air left in her lungs
maybe    when you were forcing her
seventeenth birthday through 
her lips    the smell of cut pine
green static of the tent  & 
that word she’d never heard 
before    that  maybe 
she’d said no




The smell of motor oil & sawdust
& the moon threaded through 

the chipped-blue shutter window 
of the shed      his breath slipping 

through my right ear 
& steaming from my left        

the hairs spat  hard on my wrist 
in reflex     as everything between 

the sides of my head  shook  
& settled     the clouds 

thick white stains in the sky 
& the warmth expanding 

through denim    it’s not 
that  I didn’t want to tell 

you    but I didn’t think 
you’d want to know




Clutching both   
I’ve tried to divine 

the future in our single 
room of rum  & candle-spilt 

light       but we  could 
only draw  the past     

which made you weep 
onto your knees    I applied 

teeth to the cigarette burns
on the buttermilk of your wrists

& they began to sing   their only
song      spluttered smoke

like two scarves     flowing
pulling us back   to the moth-dust

sofa you hid behind as a child  
watching your mother soak up 

your father’s beliefs until 
they were so true they cracked 

her ribs with their beauty     
her eyes the colour of kettle-

steam    & here you are    holding 
yourself again   the threads tremble 

a way back      but you  desperately 
plug the two holes with fingers   tears 

smearing ash    & we can barely see 
through the smog & screams 

of the room   I call your name
but we have made the gods 

of your past angry    I find you 
heaved in the corner  

& all you can do is weep 
& cough    tell me   grief is 

the most terrible time-machine

DANIEL SLUMAN‘s poems have appeared in journals such as Cadaverine, Popshot, Shit Creek Review and Under the Radar. He serves on the editorial board of Fit To Work: Poets against Atos and is Creative Writing editor for the academic journal HARTS & Minds. His debut full-length collection, Absence has a weight of its own, was published in 2012, through Nine Arches Press. He tweets @danielsluman

Read more work by Daniel Sluman:

Poem at Fit to Work: Poets Against Atos
Two poems at Wordgathering