Gavin Selerie: Marks Outside the Spa

i.m. Chris Torrance

A woman with a baby between her legs
covered with red ochre—
anointment deep in forest shade

where a meteor might have crashed,
mildew on emulsion

Two roe deer antlers point up
from her head
a furry helmet with teeth dangling over eyes

as if she were the landscape

Curved bones frame her face
leaving the mouth open to chant or scream

Below the neck
a necklace—bones and teeth of a bison or boar—

It can’t be graphed, it stares out from what
travelled between worlds

the animal mother
dismembered and put back whole
through sweat and herbs

Numbness, itching, to get secrets
from an ancestor

the gift in shock

To faint, to see double, to throw limbs
and vent noises in foam

To control weather, tell the future and heal the sick
acting the like over power disordered

a mottled zone, a body pummelled in bloody surf

Not your fairy-story heroine
with stolen shoes and stockings

but after afraid in rings of smoke

A pit dancer with locked syllables, the current
between roots
nameless in foretime

yields a veiny sack-print,
threads of feeling, ferns and fungi in the outer air

All our share in now, swaddling to release
by jolted breath what lurked in loam—
a dare or forced need

still a hoard in hoary holt, if carried from base
for show within glass

The drummelled parkland waits
velvet between nipple and navel,
keeps an echo in children’s cries

blazing with posthumous light
yes, o yes, o yes—longways as many as will


Gavin Selerie was born in London, where he still lives. Books include Azimuth (1984), Roxy (1996), Le Fanu’s Ghost(2006) and Hariot Double (2016)—all long sequences with linked units. Music’s Duel: New and Selected Poems 1972-2008 was published in 2009 and Collected Sonnets in 2019 (both from Shearsman). These texts often have a concrete aspect, as discussed in the essay ‘Ekphrasis and Beyond: Visual Art in Poetry’ (Junction Box 2). Selerie is known particularly for poems about landscape and romantic love, utilizing traditional and experimental form. His texts layer and loop aspects of history, with a strong vocal dynamic. A related essay, ‘Long Haul Voices: The Book Length Poem’, was published in Long Poem Magazine 25 (Spring 2021). An elegy for John James, ‘Questions Present’, appeared in Collected Sonnets. The present poem for Chris Torrance reflects his interest in ancient sites and ritual procedures. A letter from Chris (5.7.1985), discussing Azimuth and Puzzle Canon, with plans for teaching some of these texts at Cardiff, is included in the correspondence section of the Selerie archive at Lincoln College, Oxford. A book-length interview, Into the Labyrinth, is available online at › INTO THE LA…


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