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This poem is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Intimacy and other poems Sasha Dugdale
Forest Fire

‘They led a group of women prisoners past. The women saw the men and stopped. They wouldn’t move. The woman guard leading them shouted: ‘Come on! Get walking!’ But the women wouldn’t move.’ – adapted from Second Hand Time by Svetlana Aleksievich

Nearing dusk, a band of women passed
In padded jackets, rags wrapped round their feet
They saw the men, stopped, would walk no further

The men leaned axes, saws against their flanks
And watched as the guard prevailed upon the band
In vain, until at last she hissed in disdain

Animals, and spat and turned away. Like deer
Then they came. She to him, not pre-ordained
But more like atoms bond, drawn to pair

And each one fell towards another and it was done.
He placed his arms on her. Felt her bones
The matchwood girdle of her pelvis, her light form

Her face, the missing teeth, the lines of dirt
But shining, in the sudden grip of

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