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Alan Buckley



the poet

Alan Buckley is a poet, editor, and poetry tutor, who was brought up on Merseyside and now lives in Oxford. Author of two pamphlets – Shiver and The Long Haul – Alan's first full collection, Touched, appeared in 2020. His work has been highly commended in the Forward and Bridport prizes. Alan was a founding editor of the award-winning pamphlet publisher ignitionpress, and has taught creative writing to young people with both Arvon and First Story. He's also a regular contributor of essays and reviews to The Friday Poem.

the poems

My Country

A man is judged by his work

~ Kurdish proverb ~

00:00 / 01:53

            His fingers work the lotion into my skin.

            His palms come to rest, pressing my cheeks,

            before he draws them back. I close my eyes

            but can’t not see the history between us –

            in the Boy’s Own stories my grandfather read

            this man would be swarthy (I would be           ).

            He’d flash his teeth, grasping a curved dagger.

            I’d stand aloof, wielding a service revolver.

            We talk, as he brushes the lather up

            in a little bowl – second lockdown, Premier

            League (Man U: I offer my sympathies).

            I don’t ask why he came here. It’s my country,

            my country’s friends, my country’s enemies’

            enemies, that spent a century drawing 

            straight lines across his forefathers’ lands,

            that gunned and bombed and gassed, that drove him here

            to this shop on an English street corner,

            a cube of light resisting the dusk.

            O Mesopotamia: derricks rose up,

            drills bored down, and black gold gushed, with the force

            of blood released from a jugular vein

            by a razor’s quick slit. I feel the stainless

            blade caressing my throat, as he scrapes off

            the stubble with patient, professional love.


Use matches sparingly

Instruction on front of matchbox

00:00 / 01:06

                        Not meanness or thrift 

                        but wisdom; respect

                        for each small torch

                        that’s kept in there. Lover,

                        the same is true for words. 

                        I bring you no fireworks.

                        A room is never so dark 

                        that it needs more 

                        than one slim burst 

                        of sulphur to show 

                        the mirror hung on its wall,

                        the way to its door.

                        And lovers know too

                        how even a single 

                        flame might raise 

                        a scar that time can’t heal.

                        So come, stand next to me;

                        let’s flip this little box. 

                        Strike softly away from body.

                        See how it urges us.

The Error

00:00 / 01:11

            They’re standing like figures on a cake, by a pre-war

            Hillman Minx. My father, stiff as the mannequin his suit 

            was lifted from, has a pleasantly startled expression,

            as if he can’t quite believe he’s got to this threshold

            beyond which adult life begins. My mother’s hiding 

            behind her lipstick smile, the blinding white 

            of her dress. They think they’ve found a way out, 

            and here’s the car that will take them away

            to a housing estate that’s still being built, to earth 

            that’s yet to be dug over to make a vegetable patch, 

            to a life untethered from its past. They’re wrong, 

            of course; I’m witness to how their histories 

            followed them out of this frame. But look – here’s 

            where I’ll choose to say I come from, that small 

            place of reassurance that something else is possible, 

            the warm hollow made by their locked hands.

Publishing credits

My Country: The Friday Poem (February 2022)

Flame: The Dark Horse (Issue 34)

The Error: Touched (HappenStance Press)

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