Three Poems
Ralf Webb

1.    Disfigurement, in Three Parts


        Sit in the close room. Roll up your shirtsleeve.
        Your forearm is corded by blue veins. Eased
        to the surface by another heavy August day,
        in this, your new city of subways and white noise.


        Your arm has an abrupt topography. Lashes
        put down by a metal object. Something came
        and gave you a sign: mark yourself thus, and
        you’ll again be able to eat in the company
        of others. Mark yourself and let your currency
        haemorrhage, let it pool in the strange basin.
        Swallow a cup of water. Wash yourself, walk.


        Pass your fingertips over the scars. They are
        raised, parallel. Like the railroad sleepers in
        the backwoods of the back town, where tall
        trees in narrow silver suits let light perforate
        your ignorant face. Before cities. Before
        their incoherent premises, which echo and quake
        and cause the body to mutilate, then bloom.

2.    Don’t Touch Anything

        White rooms repeat themselves
        Across the former warehouse districts
        They proliferate as divisions proliferate
        Are your devices in order, current
        Is the line of your garment suitably clean
        Can you suggest affluence by omission

        White rooms contain singular audiences
        And mutely occlude confluences:
        The ecstatic intersections of the city exterior
        Are you immaculately iced, impervious
        Did you quit your hayseed accent
        And cut your blemishes off, whet your jaw

        Inside white rooms men repeat themselves
        Via gross presence, via platforms
        (That man is a fraud, as that man is a fraud)
        Will you let them pillage your ethics
        For pure transit, dazzling ingress
        Out of the margins into aseptic white

3.   Waves, Penultimately

        This month you grow out
        your beard, and I self-medicate
        with a thorough love of you,
        which is neither
        brotherly nor obtuse,
        but like a stone jar
        into which I pour
        everything molten and rash.

        In the hills our eyes
        are stung gold, like florins,
        as we watch two rich English boys
        capture their likenesses
        in crystal screens. Dosed,
        they stalk across blue sward,
        through the cypresses,
        as though hunting wild boar.

        When at last we leave
        to pursue the sea, my appetite
        gives out. I become wet linen
        strung on sticks; you grow bigger.
        Like a galleon you risk the water
        and win, while I unravel
        on ashy rocks, and lick
        baked salt from my bicep.

        Now you crest, now you dip
        beneath hot waves, and search
        for precious things
        on the living floor. There is
        no cure: words have ceased
        to have currency between us.
        It will be a long time
        before I see you again.

Ralf Webb’s poetry has appeared in the London Review of Books, Test Centre, Oxford Poetry, and elsewhere.


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Hotel is a magazine for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. The magazine is bi-annual, the online archive is updated periodically.

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