Paul Sutton - Poem-sequence, "Past Elision"

Paul Sutton



When you think of some old elite 
even if you're now a member 
how easily you'll see pale ogres 
raping teenage girls or owning  
countless slaves, eating off solid 
gold plates as babies starved.

At a hidden level, I do. 
Hard not to, wondering 
what you'd have done – 
abuses, cruelties, excesses –  
other things too, of course, 
always those three in mind. 

Clouds of green jade 
powdering the horizon.
On a rock inside his head, 
living in his mouth perhaps:
'He didn't even have time 
to kick off his sea boots.' 

Equivalents? Stood stock-still
every day on a roundabout.
Back to this. All existential
delight is impossible if the 
foundations get smashed,  
replaced with Thanatos.

I'd have shot myself for saying that we
need to want to build some new cathedrals,
their spires looming, soaring above just words.
I don't care if it sounds like bad Larkin
or Golding. More urgent than anything –  
it's escaping but not losing ourselves.


No doubting it, most colleagues wanted him dead. 
An odd feeling, familiar to anyone disagreeing with woke beliefs. 
Teachers are masters at scowling tuts; easy to know you're in disgrace. 
They weren't worried about plotting his execution, in the corridor.
Their strength was the swiftness in denunciation then damnation.

Distillation of hatred gives a universal gas, in classes, stairs, offices. 
A majority there are progressives: anxious; overwhelming; deadly. 
A sacrifice is needed, an offering to their insatiable religion,   
for fear its gaze could fall on them. He sat fixed to his chair – 
they came for him anyway.

Invention of Board Games

You remember – incredibly complex 
rules – maybe your father would read
then pronounce, expert, who moved first, 
how you retrieved gemstones (Buccaneer),
when to guess villain, room, weapon?

The most baffling was Colditz, no wonder
hardly anyone escaped. I think stealing the
Commandant’s car was the only possibility, 
or making a glider out of German underpants
and Red Cross parcels containing balsawood. 

Well, I invented one, though it mainly needs
telepathy. You write a word on a single sheet,
then somehow the person to your sunrise side
guesses away. I’m worried it sounds like a
writing game, played on poetry courses.

Only Pity Matters

How I feel it when I see some lone child 
walking slowly to school, that fearful look
as they get near, eyes flicking either side,
ears alert for any nickname, hoping
to get inside unseen, to find shelter 
unremarked, ignored. Even worse is the
pretend happiness when all feels empty.

Pity is something that can't be taught, which
comes from walking home without any friends, 
never being asked, from hearing others
laughing at your pain. My colleagues over
some old fool dismissed – 'inappropriate
comments' – forfeiting his job, pension, life.    
Luckily, they 'felt sorry for the wife.'

Hold Onto Me Forever Dad You Said

Let me hear it in my dreams till I die. 
Water of blue champagne, Sardinian sky,
you staring down at fathomless teal shade,

nothing to fear, certain that it won’t fade, 
sure you could keep all you ever needed
in your grasp – 'jump together,' you pleaded – 

clasping hands plunging into Neptune's Cave.  
If pictures are to keep, it’s this I’ll save. 
And you standing alone on Ventnor sand,

your arms reaching out, another island.
What I’ll not see, years from now,
is snow falling on streets through 

soft city lights – and you staring up 
laughing with just music and a boy.
Not worrying. Everything for the 

moment, no past nor future. 
Dawn on another landscape,
on days which vanish west.


All day I walked with a woman of lost memories
who knew everything I'd forgotten, just words,
she reassured. We stopped, looking back 
down the canal at Bradford-on-Avon, lit 
by a recurrent flicker, enough to wait for,
stood entranced by a long path of water.

Both pockets I'd once pat for reassurance are
now empty; but that long water again, how it
stretched and invited. Something had grown
unseen when not looked at, yet I can only
report not even a ripple to mar the lights
linking inner with outer existence. Who’d
question perception or if something was
there? I never thought to – just outside
then inside – as a lone figure,
could be walking away or not.

Copyright © Paul Sutton, 2022