Translucence & The Exile

by James Underwood


It was in translucence that we found her,
swirled from the outside in, a crafted
glassy substance fixed and flaming on a
spinning wheel, no end to the turns it took
to lift beyond the endlessness of night.

We warmed our hands beside her,
shifting awkwardly from foot to foot,
while the ground, conversant in our
special brand of penance, shrugged out a
stony omen and gave us sign we’d find our
brethren in the loamy regions of the east.

Homelessness collected us, and we cracked
and splintered in oblique direction, our loss
of bearing in a land of phantom compass
the guide we chose to follow, certain
that the iron shavings in our veins would
lead us to some pilgrim’s lodestone.

I reached the desert in September,
disrobed and bathed myself in sand,
shook the ramble from my beard then
dragging my alms bowl through that town
scrounged handfuls of a foreign coin
to send to you a sliver of the glass I carried.


The Exile (A Translation)

I stopped wanting the life I was walking towards
down the narrowing tunnel of time, the
stick man and woman like calligraphy in the distance
losing definition with each pulse of my eye until all
that was left in my hand was the brush I could no longer
raise, so I set myself free of it and stepped on.

There’s less to write home about with each
lengthening year I’m away, but that seems wrong
to say as I grow increasingly amused and
enmeshed in the dramas of the ever tightening scope
of my day – the broodings of a court gone mad
in exile, a wizard’s potent new philtre, the
Emperor’s all night ruminations on murder.

The rains drove hard last night upon the rooftops,
I woke to broken palm fronds beneath my window, a
soaked bird trembling behind the trays you seeded
with hibiscus, and left my tea cooling on the table
to crouch beneath the eaves still heavy with storm. I
pen this missive, hoping it will find you in the spring.

Note on Translucence & The Exile:

Apart from Translucence & The Exile, Eastlit has published the following work by James Underwood:



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