GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
THE DEVIL'S TATTOO
Brett Evans lives, writes and drinks in his native North Wales where he enjoys walking Parson Jack Russell terriers Remi and Rio.
His poems have featured in such publications as Bare Fiction, Butcher's Dog, The Frogmore Papers, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Other Poetry, Poetry Wales and more.
His poem 'Directed by Sergio Leone' was a runner up in the 2012 Cardiff International Poetry Competition.
Brett is co-founder and co-editor of the poetry and prose journal Prole
The Devil's Tattoo
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: April 2015
It's something you weekenders
would never know. You who only dip your toe
on a Friday night, who only paddle
the shallows on match day, or maybe
even ford the stream
on a bank holiday afternoon.
You have never hurled yourself to rent
the sheen of water, sink
and remain flat on your back
on the river bed
until you cease to feel
the chill or see your skin
begin to wrinkle.
Let me tell you how it is.
Just place your foot on that first
unstable stepping stone,
and mid-step, challenge your own balance
in anticipation of a slip into the drink.
you're not quite walking
on water, not yet steeped
in faith but fighting
the temptation of turbulence.
Once both feet are on the stone,
before taking another step,
look down. Look long and hard
at your reflection on the water,
then deeper to name
the fish that ripples through your core,
to spy what lies
half-buried in the shale.
And through all this, clenched in the fist
like a fretting butterfly, the desire
to be dry.
Reaping nothing from what's been sown,
arms outstretched, forsaken,
he wears his unkempt crown; king
of the hand-me-down. Dressed
forever in the same tattered rags
that suck the wind through or hang
from his frame with the weight
of the morning's rain, he sways;
a metronome to an orchestra
of gale and sleet. This son of Man
is blind to purpose, rooted in solitude
and cannot find a voice to yawp
back into the squall; no sermons,
no parables, no disciples or flock.
Not even the birds.
Directed by Sergio Leone
There's nothing but waiting around to die, so you choose
how to spend that time: swatting flies on your stubbled
throat whilst waiting for a train or riding through
this one-horse world, hell-bent on creed or trouble.
A bottle of rye, a cheroot beneath the bough
may be enough for those who're simply chasing
a quieter life. Or you could stand or slouch
between hero, villain, gunslinger and assassin;
your idle fingers twitching whilst waiting on a script
to reveal the character to which you are assigned.
An extra in another's movie, too late you've grasped
that at the bar, in bed, on the street, dying's just dying.
Your final suspicion, that there must have been so much more;
that there must have been music, an unforgettable score.
Teaching Jesus to Dance
It’s hard, you said, when the Devil’s on your back;
you climb up his gnarled sequoia spine
vertebrae by vertebrae, your glass
steady; do not spill a drop. Lupine
being the order of this and every night,
sink your teeth into that toughest cut
of meat: the neck. He’ll writhe, so grasp your pint,
employ your weight till the bastard breaks; enough
of this should see his hooves are shorn, have bled.
Once his tail’s been dragged out the dance hall door,
it’s time we tucked the moon into its bed
and howl in another unexpected dawn.
And let’s not dwell upon the Devil’s faults,
tonight we’ve a date with him for another waltz.
"There's a sense of searching in The Devil's Tattoo, from Wales to the Wild West, the poems progress like the journey of man looking for a lost hero wherever he can. Evans looks to cowboys, villains, poets, and piss artists for answers about what a hero is, only to find the drunk wandering home, the scarecrow in his rags, men looking for ways to stay dry. This is work that cuts through machismo to reveal an aching vulnerability within masculinity itself - a surprisingly tender debut."
Poet, Short Story writer
"Brett Evans’ poems go rollicking through the Wild West of Wales, arm in arm with Ma Rainey, Celtic blood pulsing through their veins. Pints of stout are priests and Jesus is dancing with the Devil on his back. Evans sees his blurred reflection in the river and doesn’t hold back."
"Brett Evans has a knowledge of darkness and depth, light, frustration, outskirts and intelligence. His pen paints a complete picture of emotion and detail with an eloquence and understanding of things that only some people can fathom and a bright few can describe. The Devil's Tattoo wrapped me around my core with an innate comprehension and beautiful lyricism."