Caleb Parkin

the poet

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.

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the poems

Minotaur at the Soft Play Centre

00:00 / 01:30

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.

Chromatophores

… 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.

from Nature.com

00:00 / 01:53

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

00:00 / 01:30

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.

Publishing credits

Minotaur at the Soft Play Centre: exclusive first publication

  by iamb

Chromatophores: Envoi (No. 184)

Kind Words About Darkness: Rialto Magazine (Issue 88)

© original authors 2020

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