Frames of Reference
by Estill Pollock

Lines reworded in degrees
Of ingenuity, flat-earth sonnets
Cajoled into an Alp, sestinas
A crux of calculated courtesies

Parallel couplets, not
Mirror images, rather, shadow
Dialects, eagle’s claw
Inflections, dry as river beds

Underfoot, the crunch
Of gravel, accents
Particular to John Donne
And cat’s cradle archives

On pavements, greasy rain
Slick as fish guts, a dare
To nitwit poets promoting 
Books of brighter days
. . .

Images of gods of dry
Places, painted red beneath
A red sun, descriptions of rain
An accepted mythology 

A deathbed dream of future 
Days, a monument to extinct
Lineages, women in doorways
In the sundial’s shadow

Redshanks prodding low tides 
For creatures unchanged since
Boiling-sea epochs, catchfire

Kilometre ice, rocks
The size of houses turned
And polished, nestling by
Beach huts brightly painted 

Oil scum rainbows, pooled 
Near wells the children
Dug for village water in
The shadows of the rigs

Space images, of seas 
Lapping mountain peaks 
Strung with skilifts 
To a long goodbye 
. . .

Symbols on stones 
Deciphered as instructions 
To priests, for temple deities 
With heads of reptiles 

Ut-napishtim, named
By some, Noah, built a ship
In seven days, against
The Flood the gods made 

Cloud narratives subject to
The Butterfly Effect, devolved
Along fault lines oracles
Never saw coming

Wild men, living
Beyond time’s crucible, clay 
Images still wet
In their hands 
. . .

Lavender stems tipped
In bee-sting purples, scents
In dozy accolades 
Of summer, far from death

Pines bent crooked, each
Against the other, the way 
Old men lean laughing
At each other’s lies

Gumshoes rimmed in
Field muck, left to dry
On the porch, wildflower
Seeds sly in the crust

He remembered the hills
And spring water dripping
Into a copper kettle, set
To catch stars

From the creek mouth
The small boat coaxed 
To woodland pools, mosses 
Breaking the sun’s fall

Starlings, quick through
Brushstroke thickets, express
Conditions of quantum politesse
More or less

The lake path winding
Between lightning-struck 
Trees, the moorhens 
On black water, trailing light

A pine bark clearing, leafy 
Shadows overhead, an easel 
And palette abandoned 
To the rain
. . .

Regnal numbers of Kings
Conditioned to disappointment
And subterfuge, the eighth 
Henry, serial killer fatso

The court painter tamed
The jack-o’-lantern jaw, stray-dog
Genetics now subject to
The guild’s techniques 

Shading addressed pustules 
And the bully smirk, the cold 
Stare’s scaffolding of scars
More stubborn 

The princess, swayed by
His portrait, signed-off 
Her dowry to the match, against 
Whispers of a flaccid cock

Torn by rogue regiments
The kingdom fell finally 
To foreigners, their laws like bones 
Bleached in the sun
. . .

High caves eroded in
The cliffs sheltered him
From men with blades, their
Preference for human flesh 

In the caves, in the litter
Of seasons, a makeshift
Ledge with offerings
Of animals now stone

The fire kicked-over, embers
Cooling in the shadows 
Where the rock face shrugged 
Into deeper worlds 

Men with blades climbing
To high caves through seas
Long extinct, limestone 
Fossilised into gods
. . .

Post to post, straggles 
Of barbed wire like badly 
Strung guitars, warning strangers
Of consequences

Predators circling 
On rising thermals, wingtips 
Discharging turbulence 
Down to carrion decay

The terror of the sun, dust 
Torque spirals, death masks
Of twisted air and heat
That kills

On the river bend
A lone tree, its roots sunk
Through burials older
Than prayers
. . .

Across chalk hills
Vines like scripts of Sanskrit 
Verses, rigid sugars
Ripe in the sun

Winds jinking bright 
Sails, beyond 
The harbour sleek
Hulls in champagne races

Tourniquet twists
Of country road, through
Hills of orchard

The town reinvented 
In the light, the dawn
Across red roofs a barrel 
Of show-off clowns

Clouds banking 
Against the sun, steely grey
Against blue, these ad-lib
Quips of cumulus 

Small birds chastise 
The rain, a chittering 
Complaint of seed pods
Scattered in the wet
. . .

Flick-tail dolphins
Breaking green 
Water, the ferry’s wake
Filigree lace

Dirty tugs nudging
Tankers into berth, splinter
Colours of coastline 
Pulled into focus

Blue buoys marking 
Shallows, the yachts 
Impish, regatta spinnakers
Tagged in spray

A harbour memorial 
To the drowned, by 
The railings tourists 
Primping selfies 

A woman stretching 
In the sun, a tattoo 
Thigh to ankle, locknut
Paisley fractals 

Flotsam of bank notes
On the beach, the plovers
Indifferent, preferring springjack 
Arthropods to currency
. . .

Between waterfall
And waterfall, the ferns
Supplicant, mosses
In votive choirs 

Pines raked with rain, on
The veranda, wet towels 
Confirming summer
Has departed

The wrench of isobars
Defining features
In the air, patrician profiles
With a rakish flair

Bluster weather
Flattens thistles, shakes 
Banks of violets on paths
Thought sacrosanct

In the churchyard, cedar 
Shadows hung
With odes, talismans against 
Rooks, whose weapons are mighty

The Virgin 
In the portico, sullen poets 
In the cliff hotel, catechisms
Courting alchemy

In the clock’s carved
Face, time, sumptuous 
Owl flights through sumps
Of walnut burl
. . .

In old photographs
Cadets at calisthenics, all
In stiff collars and neckties

Paintings of royalty, busts
Struck in Roman style
Bacchus and bedroom nymphs

Seasonal flowerbeds 
And fountains and a path
To quiet waters, a fish 
Leaping in midair

Late sun in rooms
Dressed in mourning, black
As the bacillus 
That killed the Prince
. . .

Rain, a risen
God, night storm delirium 
Like lost chapters 
Of a Gothic novel 

Petal cottages opening
From the lake, dragonflies 
Knitting flight paths 
From thinning light

Cliff-edge paths
For walkers, the waves
Breaking hard, brazen
On beaches 

A landslip geology
Dissembled by tides, seams
Of time, red 
As wounds

Flint knuckles washed
In wave slough, heartbeats
Of sediment 
Beyond history 
. . .

Delegate wasps table
Sugary petitions 
Citing solstice, the plea
Forensically argued

Gonzo sonnets
Paraphrasing Kant, hostages 
To narratives flipping
Time and space

The house on fire, houses
In flood, seed acres
Under juju spells, children
In corners tapping screens

By the gate, nuns 
Vowed to silence leave
Scented soaps, in the honesty box
Untended, a few coins 

Deep cover alias, so
Long afield, no recall code
Or route, all who knew him
Dead or suspect

Socrates, wincing at
Bitter hemlock, his son 
A dullard, content with 
Life in the suburbs

An old carpet, beaten
On the line, dusty 
Incantations, laments
And foolish prayers

Estill Pollock’s recent poetry publications include Entropy (2021), Time Signatures (2022), and Ark 2023, all from Broadstone Books in the United States. His earlier publications include the book cycles, Blackwater Quartet (2004) and Relic Environments Trilogy (2011). He lives in Norfolk, England. Archives of and links to the work of Estill Pollock can be found here.

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