We are delighted to publish Nicholas Christian’s poem ‘A Wassail in Ink’ in Issue 15 of Pulp Literature. We are even more delighted that he has provided another version of the poem, which he has agreed to publish here on the website.
A Wassail in Ink
by Nicholas Christian
Here is one beginning: an Ocean of Vietnam;
bottom rim stiff with starch grinding like rough glass
against an old belt buckle, eyes sweeping and moving
in rhythm through the dark of a stone spiral street.
And there the cavalier waited, iron-red mouth brushing
your waist and Avery Colt laughed into beer with October
promises before the night church of Kansas knew even spoiled honey
is sweet in black heels high under sconces of electric tallow.
Our canoe was carved for sinking, certain your wet shoes remember
how to walk into the dusk of an old stranger’s bread, and gun-fire
has come to mean tasting the vanilla whorl of water lilies.
And some braveries are the old tears stranded and hungry
given to island sand, words taken by the wind returned possessions
with the rain, grown thick and resonant as stretching pelicans—
we’ve landed on Bluebeard’s birch table, sure in opening one more door
the joys of hearing Rumi ask what have I ever lost by dying?
What choice but to sentence shining with fat our piles of bones
to the burning wood; now there is space for the tapestry of your back
to fit into my hand—this learning language through the body
sits so close to the future there is only the dance of it.
Which is all to say: these places are maps black from all this spilled ink
collecting in my cup full of little crows I’ve brought to your lips,
meaning nothing more than we are seven words written when not looking.
We think the poem is superb in both its forms. What do you think? You can find Issue 15 here if you don’t already have it. We’d love to hear from you.
Nicholas Christian lives in St Louis with his stuffed sea lion Gerald and his coyote Loki who believes she is a cat. He studies at the University of Missouri-St Louis. Find more of his poetry at Off the Coast, Poetry Quarterly, Dămfīno, Panoply, Gravel and the Lindenwood Review.