Brutal Poetry

HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.

Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…

The Refugees

Jennie E. Owen 

The flood water rises steadily
and out they come. Sleeking grim
confused creatures from the tide, from the mire.
Eyes flicker copper wire, up at the black beach,
reflect the bottle of the seaside streetlights.
A flash of scale. Of ivory. Feather and fur
in flight. Closer they come. As much strangers
to freedom as they are to the peeking
audience; for fingers are twitching at the curtains now.
These refugees are unaware in their hoof and claw otherness,
that they have not left their obliterated cages,
their sunken ark,
for good, just yet. 
For the watchers are waiting now, steady handed,
all their ducks in a row.
The big game hunters, the children with spud
guns. Their mothers calling them out, hauling
rocks eye to hand at increasing speed.
Closer they come in biblical procession. Up the narrow streets, 
past the cobbled stones, the chippie, pubs and churches. Past
shop fronts selling rock and candy floss in bloated bags.  
Some take a darker route, the back roads and byways;
the sewers and sulphurous factories.
When the bloody dawn breaks,
the mystery slackens, pop-pop-pop.
The invaders are too faded, 
too exhausted, heavy-limbed from fighting the sea.
Eyes roll, pop-pop-pop.
Tongues loll, pop-pop-pop.  
They fall, don’t surrender pop-pop-pop.
After, the game hunters parade the skins in the air,
kebabed to sticks. The alligator a pre-pair of boots 
and matching bag. Whilst a teen rides the body of the hippo. A tang 
of blood, metallic like treacle 
on his lips.
They cheer hollow and howl and clap 
one another on the back. 
Beat their chests in slow motion over the mud bogged, 
waterlogged, sagging
shag-skinned mess of parts.
It was us or them. Was it? It was them or us.  
Whilst somewhere distant, a lone pale tiger,
the black and white kick of tomorrow’s news,
purrs in a basement and licks its rusty paws.

JENNIE E. OWEN’S writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies. She is a University Lecturer and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children.