Peter Clive, Trust and Violence

Zapruder 313

They tried to resurrect him
by running the movie of his death in reverse.

Tears flowed up
and were sucked in by ducts
in the corners of the mourners’ eyes.
The widow’s matrimonial bliss was restored.
The gun swallowed the bullets
in a great greedy gun-muzzle guzzle,
while the driver of the open-top limousine
had to steer backwards through the plaza
using his rear-view mirror.

The laundry did itself, which was just as well,
because blood stains are very difficult to get out.
The assassin suddenly remembered
other ways to pursue his grievances
and rediscovered optimism and faith in humanity,
and decided to take in a movie instead.

The limp stems of once wilted bouquets
stiffened, and dead flowers burst back into bloom
and regressed to bud-hood, and returned to seed

but somehow they couldn’t ease the ache and grief,
refill the dust-dry goblet of his generous heart
or piece together the jigsaw of the skull
that once contained his clever thoughts.
They couldn’t find the bits they needed
to put him back together again.
Something was missing.

They reel back and forth, rewind, playback
in an eternal tortuous slow-motion search
inside the camera that captured the moment
now lost forever.

Somewhere else
that single missing frame is all there is
and endless spools of alternative reality
are extrapolated from it, looping,
bifurcating, dangling, splicing and spilling
all over the messy floor of an editing suite
where all the happy endings are made.

Swamp Thing

When I was a boy
I wished I was a dog. An injured dog
that someone beautiful nursed back to health
somewhere it was safe to be helpless
and I was treated with concern and sympathy.
I wished this because I already knew
as far back as I can remember
I was repulsive,
it was not safe
and no-one cared,
at least not as much as they would about a dog.

just once,
I’d like to know what it’s like
to be touched by someone
as though they thought I was beautiful
and more than just a means to an end,
more than just a fuck,
to feel them encounter my skin,
their meticulous attention and caress
hushed with the awe and reverence,
with which one treads
on the threshold of a miracle,
and we would hold our breath together
to arrest the passage of time
and preserve that perfect moment.

At least I used to feel that way
until I realised if they did
I wouldn’t believe them.
I’d assume it was all some elaborate joke
and the joke was on me because I’m repulsive.
My self-loathing turned all tenderness to lies
I thought the only intimacy I could enjoy
would have to be taken, not received,
to be stolen, a fantasy made real
by a violence, which was all that was left
that I could trust,
even though it would destroy
the only thing I ever wanted:
to be touched as though I was beautiful.

So, I went into the woods
where no-one would be able to find me
and covered my skin with mud and excrement
and chose to be a living, walking grave
and raised a cordon of fear around myself
and made a smiling mask of my disgust,
a grimace drawn on my face of earth,
the caricature of a smile scraped
by a finger that pollutes all it touches
and when I touch you I make you feel like dirt
but when you scream at least I know
you are not lying to me

and when I tell others not to believe you
it is to punish you, not for anything you did,
but for my inability to believe
you could ever touch me
as though you thought
I was beautiful.

Peter Clive lives on the southside of Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and three children. He is a scientist working in the renewable energy sector. As well as writing poetry, he enjoys composing music for piano and spending time in the Isle of Lewis. Peter has been published by Poetry Republic, Writer’s Café Magazine, Cadaverous Magazine, Reflections, Riggwelter, The Blue Nib, and Causeway. He performs occasionally at events in the Glasgow area. His blog is


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