Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

Language Signs



How shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak in the air

JK Antrobus, grandfather, I dreamt you
returning your reading glasses to your eyes, opening
your bible, pointing at the words you couldn’t say.
You pointed at mercy and failure and then
you pointed at your white hair and your lips and then
at the ceiling of your church as if it were the roof
of your own mouth, and I understood as much as the stone
plaques on the walls or the pews which were wood,
a word that once meant tree.

All the men that raised me are dead, those bastards.
I’m one self-pitying prick of a son. How do I bring
back men who couldn’t speak, men lost in books, drinks,
graves? Where do I turn, knowing they left
the hot taps running? I want to say sorry, come to me.
Cut the hedges on your face so I can read your lips.





Raymond Antrobus’s debut collection, The Perseverance, won the Ted Hughes Award, the Rathbones Folio Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize, among others. He was also awarded the 2017 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and the 2019 Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. Born in London, Raymond is currently based between London and Oklahoma City.

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