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3 poems by Tamar Yoseloff

Train at Night in the Desert

Charcoal dark. Nothing to see but twin ghosts

of your face in safety glass, the man opposite

upholstered in thick fibres of slumber.

You’re pulled by a faith

in steel. The train is a lung breathing dust

as it huffs to a black dot on the map:

a bug stuck on its back, giggly legs flailing in air.

Out there, the coyote keeps its secrets,

it has its own line of action.

It doesn’t give a shit about your plans.

Nephritic Sonnet

I wear an oxygen moustache, hating the cold

creep of air into my lungs, but the nurse says

I must keep breathing. I watch the slow clock

of blood through the IV tube, my insides out,

on display, my ‘fluid being’, my ‘wine of life’ –

but why would I try to make a poem of this?

I’m nothing more than a few sheets clipped

to a board, my bodily functions monitored

in words that doctors register above my head.

There’s no poetry in the hospital gown, worn

thin from the rub of skin, or the urine stench

or how a person dies, without elegy or dirge,

on the other side, just a curtain between us


We maroon ourselves

on tiny plots, worlds

shrunk to fit. Our terrain

is difficult, our waves

choppy. We have few

natural resources, we live

on what we forage,

hoard air and water.

We grow turf, hide

in the long grass

so no one can find us,

develop thousand-yard

stares, our eyes fixed

on the horizon, waiting

for a ship that never docks,

the off-island always beyond

reach, always in sun,

like a gem behind glass.

We put seas between us,

we won’t be rescued.


Tamar Yoseloff’s sixth collection, 'The Black Place', will be published by Seren in October 2019. She’s also the author of 'Formerly', with photographs by Vici MacDonald, shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award; and editions with artists Linda Karshan and Charlotte Harker respectively. She’s a lecturer on the Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry.


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