Featured Publication – In Charge of the Gun by Graham Clifford

Our featured publication for October is In Charge of the Gun by Graham Clifford, published by The Black Light Engine Room Press.

Consistently Clifford: he navigates the mechanics of our failures, and in attempting to fix them, what we may become, or not.” Philip Hancock

These are pitch-perfect poems powered by luminous and revealing images, a razor sharp voice and a beguilingly dark humour. There is irony too and witty insights. Graham is a poet’s poet, with a mastery of syntax and form and a keen awareness of the writer’s need to observe. An immensely readable collection, with a great deal to admire and enjoy.” Anna Saunders

The White Baboon

A white baboon became important.

Everyone visited the zoo to see what he had done to become important. He reflected everyone’s life at
the breakfast table back at them. Who could not be moved by the white baboon and his achievements?

He was also an excellent draftsman. Sometimes it was the tops of houses he could make out from his
cage, or a visitor he remembered. A keeper bought him canvases to use the paints he had made using
oil from Tapir excreta and rocks that children still threw at him.

By humanely removing the top of his skull, neuroscientists properly understood the white baboon’s
importance and helped us to. This success coincided with a dip in zoo ticket sales; attributable to the
allowable and expected mid-implementation slump bought about by edgy economic policy.

There were no ill effects from his surgery or the subsequent analysis which involved sedated journeys
to the best universities. They sold the research paper in the souvenir shop. At K. University he was
allowed to dress in jeans and a t-shirt. The baboon was once beaten for an affair with a handler’s wife.

The baboon went bald, grew back his hair, dreamt he was flying, dreamt of real places he’d never
been to, and drew and drew and drew. He tattooed one of his peers with his own language and
smashed three sons on a boulder near the tyre swing.

In summers, he was captivated by the skittish algorithm of sunny gnats. He understood.

Previously published in The Rialto

The Righteous Path

Then there were Jesuses everywhere. They crowded like water fleas in the supermarket and butted
into lightbulbs at night like moths. One woman had a desiccated one set in a banned sort of resin and
wore it as a broach. Every tiny tooth perfect in miniature; think yawning baby shark.

A really big one decided its job was to stand on the horizon like an inaccurately beneficent history
that everyone colludes with because of the way light congratulates the enormous, softening edges in a
water-colour way.

Juggernauts would flatten them in their thousands on B-roads in the sweltering mating season and
some teenagers kept them in boxes and grew attached to how their Jesuses made nests from rips of
dead other Jesuses. How they would look mournful weaving legs.

You turned into Jesus and I say, It must be tiring. I know how hard it was just to be you, but now you
are Jesus. You must find it difficult to juggle this and your family and work commitments.

Not at all, you say. It was like stepping into a warm room. As soon as I decided, I got this kit and the
address to a website where I could dump my past. I got this enamelled badge and all this paperwork.
Work have been fine, I’m now seen as a kind of mascot or lucky charm.

But you didn’t mention your children, I say. Jesus didn’t have kids, you reply.

Previously published in The Crank

Dear Idiot,

……………….do not share with me
your plans. They are
idiotic and much like mine
when I was an idiot.
You haven’t costed them
and they overreach your
capabilities; I mean,
have you any idea how much
an island is? Even
one infected by tactical
evaluation exercises?
And what will you do
when you can hypnotise? And
where did you hear that
it’ll all be all right in the end?
Dear Idiot, please do not
try to contact me for a reference
even via memories, even
via emotions, even via
the weather even via
poems I’ve always known.
You are an idiot,
and I should know.
Now I see the danger in
your hair do and getting
up late; your
clever rhymes and gestural
brush strokes. It is beyond reckless
to represent fauna
in metal snipped from white goods.
You should be made
to rewrite your manifesto,
every paragraph employed to incarcerate
your idiot thoughts.
You should consider
restarting yourself, and
what the dark buzz from machines means.
Have you not investigated tree bark?
Have you not given up yet?

Previously published in The Salzburg Review


My brother started crossing animals with kitchen implements, garden furniture, screws, nuts, bolts,
fixings, ironmongery and work wear, guttering and drainage solutions, door and window fittings, Hi
Vis overalls, fillers, aggregates and sealants, work towers and cleaning essentials.

He raised a half hedgehog half old-fashioned tape measure. He was very pleased with the snakes that
part-way along fanned out as all the sizes of Allen key.

They would be reared in ice cream tubs, an old chest freezer or on his bottom bunk. And all the
animal/objects weren’t obviously upset by their uniqueness in the world. My brother could manage
pain with the skill of an anaesthetist.

Our parents asked him about pursuing his crossing as a proper career but he wouldn’t hear of it.

A sparrow/whisk on his shoulder and a pocket alive with woodlice/Rawlplugs, he tried to tell me there
was more to life than the obvious but I couldn’t understand a word as his tongue was pimpled with the
buttons off an ornate till and his motivation was insulated with a no nonsense and damp-resistant
expanding sticky foam.

Graham Clifford was born in Portsmouth, grew up in Wiltshire and lives in London with his partner and two daughters. He has been published widely, in such magazines as the Salzburg review, the Rialto and Magma, and has won or been commended in awards and competitions such as the Arvon, Bridport and Forward poetry prizes. Graham has performed at the Aldeburgh, Hay on Wye and Bridport Literary Festivals, among others.  He has a MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and is a Head teacher. http://www.grahamcliffordpoetry.com

In Charge of the Gun is available to purchase from Graham’s website.

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