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Hollie McNish / Claire Basarich / Tom Chivers / James Lock

by Now Then Sheffield

I’ve never liked abstract art.

With Turner and the moody Dutch,
you always knew what you were getting.
A ship was a ship was a ship.
Roiling cloud, dusk smoke and lamps
branches spidering the snowy bank.

But this. This is a right mess.

The colors are all wrong, for a start.
Here a stripe of red cut off mid-stride
a slash of triangular green and pink.
Is this meant to be a field of flowers
their bright dark bulbs and feather arms raised and shaking?

These grotesque fevers,
they’re supposed to be the play of sunset
on the furrows of a softly ploughed field, the grass
and ranch lands of northern California saluting?
It doesn’t look like Berkeley at all, you hippies.

These peach-pie lines here shooting off of the blackness,
are they time’s shadow clinging to your skin?
The etchings of age on your hands, unwash-off-able
your fingers twitching paint
aching to rip the color open, to turn it inside out.

Tell me how anyone could understand it
these burning yellow thoughts
these sheafs of dreamed up blue and green
hiding the heavens, all squared up
and bursting out from every part of you?

Claire Basarich


You are nothing but a carbon Midas.
Everything you touch turns to policy reports.
The kid showed his electric pace
and I was a ball of nerves.
A slow cow farts. The little girl mistakes a pylon
for the Eiffel Tower. You may as well
griddle the grid. My window is full
of propellers. If all my statements
include their own history, then how can we start?
Let’s demolish the old town baby
for I’m already wasting on several fronts.
After the poem I’m spent
like a cartridge, like money.
Oh honey we’ve so far to go
so follow my flow till I’m sunk
for a sink in a coffinless grave.

Tom Chivers
Taken from his new collection, Dark Islands, available from Test Centre Press

Original Fault


James Lock

by Now Then Sheffield

Next article in issue 87

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