Caleb Parkin is a day-glo queero techno eco poet and
facilitator based in Bristol. He won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2016, came first in the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017 and has placed in various other competition shortlists. Caleb's poetry has appeared in The Rialto, Poetry Review, Butcher’s Dog, Under the Radar, Magma, Envoi and elsewhere. He tutors for the Poetry Society, Poetry School, First Story and others, and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. He’s now at work on his first collection, with ACE Developing Your Creative Practice support – and from October 2020-2022, Caleb will be the Bristol City Poet.
Minotaur at the
Soft Play Centre
While the calves play, the other children-children huddle
by the counter of the snack bar (beef burger and chips £3.99).
Minotaur sits on a chrome chair, latte in his vast hand,
watching the calves tumble and snort through padded rollers
or down spiral slides. He rests a hulking elbow on the holographic
tabletop and issues a bestial sigh.
Every time the calves go out of sight, the timpani of his bull’s heart reverberates.
Each time they vanish behind some painted frieze of children-children
jumping, screeching, and reappear with their bovine ears atwitch
with overexcitement, he hears echoes of thoughts he hoped
he’d shut away. Hooved thoughts, from years within
those corridors, his meaty leaf-shaped ears rotating
like radars, shifting sharply to the sounds of those
frantic human-human feet. Soles like his
endless and disposable; heads like his
endless and disposable.
… organs that are present in the skin of many cephalopods, such as squids, cuttlefish and octopuses, which contain pigment sacs that become more visible as small radial muscles pull the sac open making the pigment expand under the skin.
Across the Despatch Box
they make their bodies
into proclamations, pigment
their limbs into Pollocks
that abstract speech. They lie
but their skin is mainlined to
their cerebella, spots untruth
and scatters it like fireworks,
displays it boldly across the
mobile billboards of their foreheads.
Every vigorous declamation
and witty riposte rings only
as true as their minds permit:
intentions expand in stripes over hands,
fear makes their cheeks as worn-
red and cracked as leather benches.
The Opposition’s voices force
them to blush in torrid technicolour.
These new palettes of their flat-
screen selves broadcast every doubt
or whim on patterned limbs.
The electorate watches these
screens on screens, peers down
to check what we believe,
merging with Hadean settees,
camouflaged and craving ink.
Kind Words About Darkness
To the bafflement of the swaying faces,
we say we are happy to walk.
Into this living night, we stride, fly
on a day of sipping smiles, shining eyes,
the few curving miles of hedge-
meshed lanes, reliant at first
on sight. But then, in the secret spectral
cinema of purple-black-grey
three am, away from the orange
juice deluge of streetlights –
we attune to touch, become alert
to the crunch or slop of each step, awake
to each other, the low-headed stoop
of the dog. There is space in this darkness.
A brightness. Between us and the softly
backlit branches. No traffic to face
down. No public to display to.
Not a single tree jabs at us
with censuring eyes. Just us:
our hands meshing beneath
this starlight. These hands,
scattered otherwise, beneath
the gazing windows of
a city skyline.
Minotaur at the Soft Play Centre: exclusive first publication
Chromatophores: Envoi (No. 184)
Kind Words About Darkness: Rialto Magazine (Issue 88)