Jay G. Ying


The Drought



The landscape healed out with a pen is retaken; every fault
line in the ground roils our stilted dead. As the wheat is fed
so pass me words from those mountains, prelude to drought.
Kernels sowed out slow and far for new gods like royal teeth
in the soil. I climb Jugurtha’s Table. The horizon skims that
mesa with every old metre of erasure: the blur from a lonely
warbler shrinks down a cloud, a migrant turns into one seed,
as a word is to one dot, that bird is its sweet quartet, a lute or
key—no settling nor sounds at all. No more than one year after
the archangel; I lose Raphael’s plain yet unsung face like a red
stranger in a crowded coup, the body’s track of an old traveller
in a dream we occupied but did not live out. Weather, save us


from ourselves. Deserted, I ask my phone as I bear that mantle,
king of the mountains: Do the sour birds still circle that stone
top? Invert the relief, flood the qalat, hike another peak to wait
for my instructions. In the next epoch, the crests of the limestone
adobe transform: fire back into fruit, frost to rock. No moisture
in any signals via the air. Coaches all but arrive to a point. And
in that final cycle of water, as I let the drops bless my murmuring
lips, in payment I agree to hear out ghost stories of old Amazigh
kings. Moorish letters rise then fall, dust on the bricks laid out
like tarot cards, wind shorn skin like fortified memories. I realise
too late that there was no bird, no respite from thirst; I needed
Raphael to be beside me for me to know he was here no longer.





I burnt his letter
over a grave by the fountain’s dovecote;
in the hut in the mountains the immaculate
homing heralds were plucked bare; the
war far flung; dozen stamps of partitions
I did not think still existed, blue ink
from every ochre or synthetic, resurrected
in our soft address. I moved a mountain
side of bamboo upon the papers. So in that
unsettling light if he had looked past our
travertine, he would have heard the old wind
whistle, the oxidised soil upturned, just lost
spirits rolling their knuckles on the hollow stems.


Jay G. Ying’s publications include The White ReviewPBS BulletinAmbit, and The Scores amongst others. He is a winner of the Poetry Book Society Student Poetry Prize, and has been shortlisted for The White Review Poet’s Prize and twice for the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize. In 2019 he received a Literature Matters Award from the Royal Society of Literature. He currently lives in Edinburgh.

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