Joshua Clayton

Keep the Pips


I’m hearing drills and it’s midnight.
When I feel like flattening something

I clear space on the floor and press
my whole front down. I have nobody

to confess to that under my belly here
was where I knocked and spilled six cups

of blackest red, three cups of black-
laced rum. This wood has done so well

to swallow my secrets: I would kiss it
thank you but I’ve forgotten how. I sleep

with my lips splayed open so I can skim
and chew the wet dead skin in the morning.

My tongue is grayer than a winter pelt.
Somehow the mantle candles have spread

cherry wax over the wall like a sneeze,
a ring of rose rust, a hardy sea spray

of blood flung from my nails. Most days
I scratch myself in fits. The blood has no

taste, but once I’m done I arrange my body
the best for my mouth to get at the wounds.

Joshua Clayton is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Cambridge. Poems of his have appeared or are forthcoming in, among other places, Gigantic Sequins, Barren Magazine, The Cardiff Review, and The Journal.

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