New poetry: Rites by Sean O’Brien; KIA by Sasha Dugdale

Ukrainian soldiers  in the city of Severodonetsk, in the Donbas region of Ukraine on April 7th. Photograph:   Fadel Senna/ AFP  via Getty

Ukrainian soldiers in the city of Severodonetsk, in the Donbas region of Ukraine on April 7th. Photograph: Fadel Senna/ AFP via Getty

 

Rites

Just as the grave of a sailor floods
when he exhales, just as the airman’s plot
is marked by flaming barrels in a field,

and just as the soldier lies where he fell
with his helmet placed at a rakish slant
on the butt of his rifle, and just as the butcher

is flayed and the baker cremated,
just so the candlestick-maker has not
been spotted for quite some time.

KIA

In early spring, he drove his car
down narrow lanes, between bare hedgerows
parked it at the base behind a barbed wire fence
under a hazel tree, and left the keys in his locker.

It sat in its space all summer long
as the helicopters landed and took off
and the sap of the hazel that insubstantial shade
made a sticky film over the windows.

In the autumn the green nuts tattered down
the car was alone on the asphalt
warm inside, like something living
and no one had the heart to move it.

Sean O’Brien’s most recent collection is It Says Here (Picador Poetry). Sasha Dugdale’s most recent collection of poetry is Transformations (Carcanet). Her translation from Russian of Maria Stepanova’s In Memory of Memory was nominated for the International Booker Prize.