i.m. June Clutterbuck née Dillon
A bee can carry its own weight in pollen, and still fly.
Clumsily, and with great strain. But it can, and it will, fly.
And yet the myth persists: It goes against every
law of physics that a bee should be able to fly.
Is it that a plausible lie can be easier to live with?
Or the comfort in knowing something so leaden can still fly?
That if we could only ignore life’s drag
we too might, in spite of our lack of skill, fly.
Why else would I tell my sons their grandma lives
in the clouds — that only through dying was she able to fly?
Then in the next breath offer to visit her grave; say this
is where she’ll land to rest, listen — and off again she’ll fly.
Watch as disbelief melts to wonder on their faces as they
imagine being both of the earth and the sky. One day we’ll fly
like she does: bumbling, the weight of past lives in tow.
Look up, boys. See Clutterbuck, Arksey, Dillon fly.
First staged in 1987, Tough Guy is said to be the ‘toughest race in the world’. It’s
held on a 600-acre farm in Perton, Staffordshire, and comprises a cross country run
followed by an obstacle course, also known as the Killing Fields.
It snowed that year. I know because I’ve studied
the camcorder footage that was unearthed,
trying to pick you out of the muddied
jostle but always finding you uncaptured,
somewhere just out of shot. I imagine how the mud
dug into your soles as you stampeded
the field, piled into the row in front and vaulted
the rusted bars of the iron gate. How it thawed
at the edges of the ditch you dunked
in, steeped waist-high in its colour and cold.
How it bloodied, not far from the barbed
wire crawl, where a few got their head
and shoulders nicked flinching from a live round.
How it smeared thick the tunnels most travelled,
the surest exits. How it pulped into matted
heaps of burnt hay and dung, clogged
the braids of ropes you clung to, filled
your nostrils, ears and fingernails, blathered
your numbered white T-shirt, and printed
a hand on the cup of tea that steamed
the lens and scorched your lip at the race’s end.
Christopher Arksey's debut poetry pamphlet is due in January 2024 with Broken Sleep Books. His poems have recently appeared in The Friday Poem and the anthology Companions of His Thoughts More Green: Poems for Andrew Marvell. He lives in Hull and tweets @chrisarksey.