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Poetry / A.C. Clarke

‘The Sin Eater' &
'The Old Story'

Issue 2. June 21, 2021

I trundle my bloated belly
through forgotten villages
stormed by rain
where sick crops blacken the fields,

hills are quaggy with the hooves
of cattle never wintered in byres.

I am at once blessing and burden
for lean, white-faced women who haul up sacks
of pride hard as ryebread, flagons
of bitter envy, for men
stooped like a windbreak of alders
under shrivelling lusts.
I am what I eat and what I eat
is failed intentions.
Not one soul without its broken pledge.
The villagers burn every spoon
my lips have touched.
If they meet me on the road
they turn away,
cover their mouths.
A thousand years of prayer
will not purge me.
I am the dark side of the dead

It’s always a knight. Benighted
in an enchanted wood
or loitering by a lakeside
that bodes no good.
It’s always a faery-woman
a belle dame sans merci
or a Death maiden posing as human
who calls out ‘dance with me’.
The story is as easy
as a familiar rhyme
no need for a back-history
or even for a name.
The story is as comforting
as fire in winter-time.
However sad the ending
the knight is not to blame


A C Clarke’s fifth collection is A Troubling Woman. She was a winner in the Cinnamon Press 2017 pamphlet competition with War Baby. Drochaid, a collaborative pamphlet was published last year. Wedding Grief is due out from Tapsalteerie this year and can be found at

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