Nathan Hassall

                               dear sleeper
                                                          i thought this was meant to be your night  so    
           
                                                                                why can i see you        

                                                                    curled up                      on the grass

                                                                              why can i see them
                                                                                                                      
                                                                   the ravens the crows the magpies  

                                                                              why can i see them                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                 tip
                                                                                                                        from your throatmist                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                               each time your ribcage
                                                                                                               convexes  

you

                                                                                                                                              awaken 

 


 
 

  all by yourself                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                     has anything changed 
                                                          
                                                               orchestral figurette
                                                                     under prisms
                                                           of lamp and cymbal moon  

                                                                                                                                do you sleep to a drum beat
                                                                                                                                                                                                      
                         by yourself                  
                    
                                                       gray pencil skirt
                                                                          stained
                                                                                  with last night’s madras 
                                                                                      

                                             yourself
                                                                                                                                  
                                            
          
                      among green bins                             green stars

                                                                                                                            

                                                                       your
                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                try harder

                                                                                              self
                                                              

                                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                        selfbound
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                   why do you keep scratching

                                                                                                                                                                roombound

such a way
                                     with dirt
a way
                                     with bodies
sway
                                     with language
                                                     
                                                    
i can remember              
                               those old letters
                                                               wingless wasps doodled                            in margins
                                                               later tornburied neath
                                                               your reefknot tongue
                                                               we can chew and can chew but can
                                         never
                                                             gulp
                                                                                 the
                                                                                talon
                                                                              wedged
                                                                          in your gullet

give in
    unravel index
          scrape your  
                glazed nail
                      through grass
                                                                   can you feel
                                                                                          earth
                                                                                       stick
                                                                                     to skin   
                                                                           mud 
                                                                                    to memory                                                                                                         
     

                              it feels like
                                                   that last time
                                                                     when we wore nothing                  but
                                                                                                                                 teeth

 

          back to
          back to
          mattress


back
here                                                                                    

                                    had enough

if only these bones were made of rats

 

I

 

if a black lake is the death of self, estranged edges

should be touched to assure that any of this is real. a

body of water is just dove feathers rippling in the wind

a body of rats writhe through microscopic holes

holes in the city, holes in the ground, holes in houses,

especially in really old houses, holes in the soil where

bindweeds once struggled for sunlight                 holes

where

the rats play

the rats play
with reeds around the lake

 

there are holes in our ears & hearts & noses & holes

where our sight should be

the bath has a plughole so the rats can surface

the bath has a plughole so that i can leave the house

the rats play the rats play with your hair when i try and

touch it rat whiskers sprout  from  your  ratcheeks  and

your ratskeleton collapses so you ratfall               through 
      my        arms          & when i ask                 is everything

you say         the rats are everything

                                are   verything

                          rat  are       y  ing

                            t    r         y   ing

                                            y

                           rats            y

II

 

the rats are hours of shadows that bathe all over

themselves

shadows are strained worlds tailgating other worlds

the rats are death that drown in the stars

 

those stars that never mourn
the night

 

the night is rain and the rain
is inside-out

 

inside-out rain is

organs stapled to skin-rain

rain is you is ratcloud rain

is touch

is drought

is               [                  ]

is tête-à-tête is god is chance is yet again is has-been-

here-before is grief is water is cacophony is music is

squeaked breath on the skewer of memory

                                                                                    

skewer-

 

rats

 

the same rats that keep these bones in place

 

the same bones that keep these rats in place

 

 

III

 

yes
        those bones:

bone-graft
bone-soup
bones in flight
respite in bone
a clap to the bone-opus
a spark of bones


                              commence
the next crisis:

 

 

 

 

                        light

 

 

billions of years of blasted mass
for a mere eight milliseconds 
of swanhymn

rats of war

you tell me that
the rats and i
are line and sentence
as they collide/collude

                                                              like a city up to its scrapers
                                                                          in sea-brine


prose brings a lifeboat
& poetry a trident
                                  neither win

                                                                             does war
                                                                             ever have
                                                                             a winner?


how to let the ratsoldiers in
when they’ve seen everything
that history has ever offered :
love, light, influenza,
typhoid, pop music, trench foot
& for what? all these wars are still fought
                                                     in our heads

                                                      & in our guts                                                                                        
                                                                      are rats
                                                         as complex
                                           as cells
                                          as glass
                                    as gestures

30% of the time
the strong rat lets
                        the weak rat
                                        win
                                        
30% of the time
the omnipotent rats
let me be
in control
and the rest of the time
i swallow
the world
in front of me
& beg the rats
to trust me again
 
you tell me
of the great fires
i’ll cause
if i don’t open the windows
& let the rats in
but won’t these flames need oxygen
                                         the same way                                                                                                                                              
                                                               curved vowels clipped
                                                                in a dialectic birdcage do

you said

just do as the rats ask & let
them do what they need
to do
you need me & them

& you need yourself


 

the rats are  just
                         patterns
                                      in the external world

                                          to play in this multiverse
                                            of forms is to understand
                                              where the rats are from
                                                 why they are music
                                                    shaped as                                                        
                                                      puckered viola strings
                                                        & spherical falsettos
                                                          i reach out to hug
                                                            you but you’re just
                                                              another myth of
                                                                dimensions :
                                                                  a ratsmile
                                                                     cloaked
                                                                        in wolfskin &                                                                                 
                                                                          squarepocalypse

Nathan Hassall has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing from The University of Kent. He is an editor for The Luxembourg Review and co-founder and editor for Guttural. He has been published or is forthcoming in various magazines including, Projector Magazine, Five:2:One, Watershed Review, cattails, Failed Haiku, Blithe Spirit, Cat on a Leash Review, Angry Old Man Magazine, and Yellow Chair Review. Hassall's most recent chapbook is dregsongs from blab cartilage.