Poetry: Selections from Benjamin J. Larner

histoire de l’œil 1


sea-shells spiral,


gurgle, gasp,

as if lungs, sopped-spongey,

wrung-out, till no more . . .

i choke: what’s so funny?

by night-night cressed,—

moony tumescence!—

scalpel to rind,

pupillary contractions,


shadow luck,

gnomonic-blind . . .

stomached, light’s swallowing,

seminally, like black-honey.

life, writhen internally,

wanting: what do you see?

adhesive fluency,

in Plato’s cave, shadowing: 2

echolalia, l’appel du vide 3. . .




[1] Histoire de l'œil ‘Story of the Eye.’

2 Plato’s cave Republic 514a-520a.

3 L'appel du vide ‘The call of the void.’ The inexplicable desire to suddenly kill oneself.

Sheol 1


scaled, i agnise

the better,

fatedly, shadow

the worse . . .

—Ovid 2


picked by hand,

medjool dates sunder . . .

like hearts,


post mortem . . .

effeuiller la marguerite!  3

opened wide,—

nowhere to hide?—


the pulp of us?


boxed, funereally,

al-Mayyit, 4


for the soul,

taken with coffee . . .

jadhwa’s Promethean, 5

gut-wrenching necessity!

per heaven’s art

torn apart, cruelly,

as manna

from shamayim 6

evoked, the detrital

dead: nothing’s left!

greed’s fruitless.

of earth’s bounties,


bereft, in grief,


qahwa-black, abysmal, 7

only the pit remains . . .

belief’s stony core,

buried, in vain.


self-imported, dated

ritual admits: sweet needs bitter . . .

translation’s anamnestic . . .

like jammed amber,—

syrup-fleshed thunder!—



bereshit, 8


limed by time . . .

achingly, tooth for tooth,

carious, culture’s sticky matter . . .

imperial confectionary,

swallowed: delicious but unhealthy!

like Turkish delight,

sugared, heavily,


tastes fine, still,

takes stock of bones . . .

the nameless,


macerated many

tossed in the pot . . .

stripped of context,

reduced to nihility,

love drinks deeply!



topos, brutality,

embodied, speaks from within!

my grandmother’s

smile, Tigris-,


babbling away,

like water

on lungs, lapping

shored pain . . .

familial slaughter,



as orifice,

birthing-torn . . .



with a kiss,—

kedeia’s ochre caress? 9

corps-à-corps, atrocity,

loss’ risus sardonicus 10. . .



o stony heart!

corpsed fecundity’s

sulcal harrowing:

denude, ever,


to pit inanimate . . .

grave matter, life.

takes time to settle.

the hardest part?

simply, that each is,

our lot, & then is not . . .

skull-plastered, 11



seashells for eyes . . .

buried in self,

looking up,

ancestrally, see!

in the flesh,

in me,


art excecates . . .

six feet under,—

anthropon metron! 12



(il-haki mish mitl il-shuwf, 13

however, believing isn’t seeing!)

like the burning bush,

phantasia’s textual,

ehyer asher ehyer! 14



identity’s eidolon,

i will speak to thee!

weighs on one’s mind . . .

why hast thou forsaken me? 15

po-faced melodrama’s

inhumed ictus

beats: tear up the planks!

in classical feet,


some thespian’s

trodden boards . . .

& pulsed beneath?

horror vacui! 16

heart’s home,

onomastic bounty!

just don’t ask why?

Ba’al by Mot


Zion to Zaphon, 17


mountains come!)

loss by the book!


names lie fallow . . .

of grumes

& pap,

in pomace,


soiled aeons,

germinate . . .

Etz Hayim! 18

dead ringers

for Eden’s

fruitful sinn 19. . .


date by date,—

too late!


the seed’s sown . . .

as tithed,


Onan’s own, 20

mystically, into life.

creation!—or so the story goes . . .




[1] Sheol In the Yahwistic faith of the ancient Israelites and Judahites, the abysmal abode of the dead.

2 Ovid Metamorphoses 7.20-1: Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor. Medea on her love for Jason, aware it will ruin her.

3 Effeuiller la marguerite Lit. ‘To pluck the daisy.’ French for the game ‘He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.’

4 al-Mayyit Arabic: ‘The Dead.’

5 Jadhwa Arabic: ‘Ember.’ Term for the Turkish coffee pot.

6 Manna Edible miraculously provided by God during the forty years in the desert after the Exodus. Shamayim Hebrew: ‘Heaven.’ The dwelling place of God in the Hebrew Scriptures.

7 Qahwa Arabic Coffee, usually spiced.

8 Bereshit ‘In the beginning.’ Opening word of the Hebrew Bible.

9 Kedeia Lit. ‘Caring.’ Ancient Greek term for funeral. Ochre See note 11.

10 Risus sardonicus Aka ‘Rictus grin.’ The so-called ‘death grin.’

11Skull-plastered In the Neolithic Levant, the deceased were often decapitated, their skulls stripped of flesh, covered with plaster, and painted in their likeness (seashells being inset as eyes). Whilst the head was usually displayed, the headless corpse was often ritually doused with ochre and buried under the floor of the familial abode.

12 Anthropon metron ‘Man (is) the measure [of all things].’ Attributed to Protagoras (Plato Theaetetus 152a).

13 Il-haki mish mitl il-shuwf ‘Seeing is believing.’ Levantine Arabic proverb.

14 Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh Hebrew: ‘I am as I am/as I was/as I will be.’ God’s revealed name in Exodus 3:14.

15 Why hast thou forsaken me Psalm 22

16 Horror vacui ‘Fear of the abyss/emptiness.’ Attributed to Aristotle, postulate that nature contains no vacuums.

17 Zion to Zaphon Yahweh is thought to derive from, or be a conflation of, the Canaanite gods El and Baal, and is referred to by both names. To that end, Mts. Zaphon and Zion (seats of Ba’al and Yahweh, respectively) are at times conflated in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Psalm 48: ‘His Holy Mount… Mount Zion, summit of Zaphon’).

18 Etz Hayim The tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes conflated with the Tree of Knowledge.

19 Sinn German: ‘Sense/meaning.’ Fregean semantic concept, contrasted with Bedeutung (‘Reference’).

20 Onan Genesis 38:8-10 Put to death by Yahweh for ‘Wasting his seed on the ground.’

aher 1


amongst piss & shit, we are born

—Augustine of Hippo 2


. . . is that it?

that sensualyte

of my flesshe


ayenst reson,

per all perspectives,

(interrogative synonymity’s

promotor fidei or advocatus diaboli?) 3

materially, is that all i am?

Isaiah’s first & last 4. . .


of self-reflection,


self-purview, proper?

certainty’s charade . . .

no metamorphosed

flights, rather,


derided asinus aureus? 5


our species’ 6

logica docens-cum-utens! 7

hybrid sterility? 8

chorismos!—fear of the gulf between! 9

the fraught modulation,


from high modality’s


invious theory!

to reality’s assault

on harmonielehre’s eyrie? 10

Sisyphean pride of life’s 11

clowning for laughs!

agonic: try, try, try, again . . .

in consonance with fear,

that rede false


whiche laye

in a wayte

to doo harme,

stuttering, alliterative

scattergunning: al the worlde wide

to welde at my wil!

moralising’s farce . . .

in which one

plays oneself,

for sheer irrelevance,

alongside inferi, 12

one’s world-view coalesced,

like Canaanite cacophony,—

besides me, no other!

into stubborn

single-mindedness . . .

banished—aqua et igni! 13

from langue’s

synchronic domain?

again: you! you do it to yourself . . .

sprange of clawes,

i wake—such pain!

to expiry’s metonymy,

rehearsed since age three,—

no dream: heart attack!

the acoustics

of pulse’s

cavity, sounding:

for after this lyf

cometh no tyme!

the fear of being still,

tonicity’s, rooting,




entreaty: let go, it’s daybreak! 14

killing me, not-so-softly.

if only they’d believed . . .

playntis of wyse counseyl!

subtyl inuencions!

that, clinging on,

i was blessed.

as in genesis 32:28 . . .

(logomachy’s fate?) 15

for if thou

were strong

ayens god,

hou miche more

schalt thou

haue power ayens men?

nice idea, too late . . .

that clevid bone

not out the flesshe.

bypassed, falteringly . . .

imago vitae suae? 16



as if trespaces


in forehedes,

like a doublet, 17

Jacobean, twice-cleped:

that disguises did, & shadows,

as opened veins, flow from us, & our cares . . .

unhid, as voces magicae, the worse for wear! 18

o bliss!—arbath arbaoth bakchabre 19. . .




1Aher Hebrew: ‘The Other.’

2 Amongst piss . . . Inter faeces et urinam nascimur. Whilst attributed to Augustine, possibly by Bernard of Clairvaux.

3 Promotor fidei ‘Promoter of the faith’ (official name); Advocatus diaboli ‘Devil’s advocate’ (popular name). Two names for the former position in the Catholic church of arguing against potential canonisations.

4 Isaiah 44:6-8 ‘I am the first and I am the last, besides me there is no other God.’

5 Asinus aureus ‘The Golden Ass.’ Augustine’s name for Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (3rd century CE), the protagonist of which accidentally transforms himself into an ass whilst attempting to transform into a bird.

6 Counterpointing Species counterpoint. Method of teaching musical counterpoint.

7 Logica docens ‘Logic as taught.’ In philosophy, formal logic. Logica utens ‘Logic as used.’ Informal logic.

8 Hybrid sterility In biology, inhibition of the reproductive capacity of cross-species hybrids.

9 Chorismos In Platonism, the ontological gap between the world of the Forms and the world of experience.

10 Harmonielehre ‘The study of harmony.’ Seminal (1911) text on harmony by composer Arnold Schoenberg.

11 Pride of life 14th century morality play: the King of Life challenges Death to an unwinnable fight-to-the-death.

12 Inferi ‘Those below, the dead.’ In ancient Rome, associated with the Manes (dead, deified ancestors).

13 Aqua et igni ‘Fire and water.’ Clodian Law: ‘Whoever kills an untried Roman citizen is forbidden fire and water.’

14 Let go, it’s daybreak Yahweh to Jacob after being bested in wrestling (Genesis 32:22-32).

15 Logomachy In rhetoric, dispute about words/the meaning of words.

16 Imago vitae suae ‘The image of life itself/of his/her/its life.’ (Tacitus Annales 15.62). Imago: ‘Ancestral death mask; life-example, fame, reputation; semblance or shadow (with duplicitous or vacuous implications).’

17 Doublet In Biblical studies, doubled narrative in the Bible.

18 Voces magicae ‘Magical words.’ Pronounceable but meaningless magic words or spells.

19 Arbath . . . ‘[This] is your authoritative name.’ Ancient Greek spell to summon the assistance of a daimon.



Benjamin J. Larner (b.1990) is a disabled poet of Iraqi/Irish/Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and was awarded a scholarship to study BMus Composition at the Royal Academy of Music. In October he began Goldsmiths' Creative Writing MA, for which he has also been awarded a scholarship. Prior and upcoming publications include: Tears in the Fence, Dreich Magazine, Agenda, and Agenda Broadsheet. Benjamin has also been an Agenda Featured Broadsheet Poet, and read at the Agenda International Poetry Festival and the Tears in the Fence Festival.  



  1. A highly original and exceptional poet rarely ever seen in today’s offerings of what they call “poets” the breadth and scope of his language , his imagery , and his intellect all converge together along with his unusual knowledge and background of composition at the RAM
    I can only believe that this young man and his exceptional very original talent with the written word in so many directions will go far in the world of poetry and publications


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