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This poem is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Tunes for Bears to Dance to Stuart Henson
‘Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to,
while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.’ – Flaubert


Wrong stop. Wrong foot. Wrong turn. Wrong place.
Wrong suit. Wrong time to play the ace.

Wrong man. Wrong church. Wrong vow. Wrong girl.
Wrong speech. Wrong joke. Wrong choice of words.

Wrong house. Wrong street. Wrong door. Wrong day.
Wrong lie. Wrong truth. Wrong every way.


The slap of the stick and the kick of the drum.
The drag of the chain and the strain of the song.
The blood on the sawdust. The weight of the light.
The rime on the straw in the frost-eaten night.

The laughter of children. The pity of whores.
The maggots that creep in the pads of his sores.

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