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2 poems by Ruby Silk

Non-player character

You wake on an empty beach. Little evidence of the crowds

that preceded your sleep. A red pail abandoned beside a crumbling

castle. A parasol gyrating on the shoreline. You check your phone.

There has been an earthquake somewhere, elsewhere

a shooting. You find your pocket full of casino chips.

How to describe such a headache? It’s been a long time

since you touched another body, only sand

and the plastic margarita cups the bartender kept passing.

You think, “I want to live for as long as possible, but not forever

In times of war

We take a narrow boat down a narrow stream to eat a Mississippi mud pie.

Children line the banks, plug their ears with their miniature sausage fingers.

Explosions erupt from the peat mounds behind them, shooting up soil.

Clusters of fish thrash in the water at their feet. The children delight

in the red spray show. We try to record their joy from the narrow boat.

In our distraction we run into the shallows. Gravel scores the hull.

The children die laughing. Little lips of the stream nudge the boat sideways

until we’re tipped out - like eggs might be lowered into boiling water -

onto our feet. The redundant oars will serve to keep the fish at bay.

We’ll drag the narrow boat down the narrow stream to eat a Mississippi mud pie

if that’s what it takes.


Ruby Silk is a queer poet from Brighton, based in Brussels. Her poems have been published in Pain, Hotel and Ambit. She was shortlisted for the 2022 Oxford Poetry Prize and longlisted for the 2020 Hollingworth Prize. She works for an environmental NGO and runs an inclusive participatory bike repair workshop.


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