I keep all my tusks looking sharp
as coins. One once bolted
from my cheek in a scrap.
The crowd stamped. Now
newlyweds flank me, poised
to capture that wishbone-snap.
People are surprised by how much
they can touch me. Buy a ticket –
I’ll show you how I can be.
You’ll hardly believe I used
to chew ants for a living.
Until you stared back at me from 1941
some part of me couldn’t believe
you were ever young. For years, I guessed
you sidestepped history. But I see in the grand piano
keys of your grin and knotted arms like little logs
across your chest that stories of five-a-side
in the slop weren’t just substitutes for the traumas
of war. Before huddling on the shores of Dunkirk,
clutching beads, praying to the Lord
you couldn’t believe in, you dodged studded slide tackles,
thickened your calves on leathered pig’s bladder.
Now, your breath seething
like white noise, I look to the soldier
stood beside you who took one
for the team in the oesophagus –
unable to tell you how terminal pain
still couldn’t persuade his bull-strong body
to death. This time the only beads to hand
are your son’s wavering knuckles.
Richard Law is a writer and poet living in Shropshire, UK, graduating from UEA in 2017 with
an MA in Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Poetry Wales, Ink, Sweat & Tears,
Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Pinched Magazine and others. In 2016, he was shortlisted for the