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The Sands by John Wedgwood Clarke

The Sands

A small trout haunts its shadow in a pool

in woods that fifty years ago

was grey sand waste flushed through

by slimes from the tin mills.

Unique as the river’s precise toxicity,

it tunes the dimpling turbulence

it thinks through, mouth open to us

as it swallows and swallows,

arsenic, copper, zinc cross gills,

a metonym more eloquent than mine ruins.

My shadow trips the hidden balance,

streaking terror, ricocheting

off the grey sandy rim, fear realised

vanishing down the mouth of tree roots.


John Wedgwood Clarke is an Associate Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter. He has published two full collections: Ghost Pot (2013) and Landfill (2017). His new collection Boy Thing is forthcoming from Arc in 2023. More information about his current project can be found at


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