top of page

2 poems by Christopher Arksey


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.

Tough Guy

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.


bottom of page