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439th Weekly Poetry Contest winner: Dead Man's Session

by JP Davies

The dead man takes a drink
but the glass cuts his lips.
Drink slits his throat,
seethes in his stomach
like a molten tide.
Unable to feign interest
in tracker mortgage rates,
Celebrity Love Island,
Netflix potboilers
or far-flung genocide,
the dead man leaves the pub.

Drink steers his body
to streets behind streets,
dives requiring secret knocks–
no one serving
the no one drinking–
Bridewell holding cells,
lost century bordellos hiding
sick-hearted city workers,
displaced dockers, sailors
with listless blood
on permanent leave

a river that never
broke into pieces
a river that never
broke its back in places.

Drink calls Time
and the corpse crumbles.
Face left behind
in dosshouse cubicles
de-loused and needle swept
into prestige apartments;
stairwells of fusion restaurants–
everything deconstructed;
slumped on discordant carousels
of pocked ceramic horses,
laying quayside for great uncles,
grandfathers sea-bedded
on Merchant Navy ships,
for the dredging of the docks,
for a praying relative’s rattle
of the Drowned Room door.

In condemned
shiver and gloom
bar-room glass.
Stylus slips its groove,
long gone voice stuck
on the same line
his lips mime
in the mirror.
Rain down like slung earth
his prayers.

No such thing
as one for the road,
in the instant before
there was a goodbye uttered,
a last order sunk,
a home to go to.

Burnt malt waft
of a defunct brewery.
Drink hungering
on the next stool.

Published in The Deadlands

See all the entrants to 439th Weekly Poetry Contest