John W Sexton – Captive

Sexton LE P&W May 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2023

Captive, poems by John W Sexton


for one player

Only the physically beautiful
and the independently-minded can play this game.

The object is to lock yourself
into a high room until you are rescued
by a handsome, intelligent prince.
This game takes determination.

Place a hideous fat crone mask
upon your face.
The hideous mask is the face
of the witch who has trapped you.
You are hers now
and must do her bidding.

The witch will command you
to dress in your father’s
oldest clothes.
She will instruct you
on how to gather the clothes
to your shape with string.
She will compel you
to remove a single builder’s block
from the builder’s yard.

You will keep it on a leash
and walk it through the village.
It will drag stubbornly behind you,
its grating harsh and annoying.

Inside the mask your tongue will be dry,
your lips thick and unmovable.
You will pass a group of boys.
Amongst them is the handsome boy
whom you secretly love.
He will glance at your eyes
as they peer through the mask.

He will shudder with a sense of knowing,
but the mask will repel him.
He will not recognise you.
The boys will ask: what are you doing?
The boys will ask: who are you?
The boys will ask: what’s with the block?

You will answer no one.
You will pass back and forth through the village,
back and forth past the boy you secretly love.
He and his fellows will begin to sneer
when they see you coming and going,
the block like a stone pet being dragged behind you.

You will pass the girls that you know.
Back and forth you will pass them.
None will recognise you.
You will hear their sniggering
as you go.

You will continue to drag the block
through the streets and over the cobbles,
until the weight of it makes your body ache.
You will continue to drag it in silence,
while the dull lump of the block
pulls itself against your efforts.

Finally, you will tether the block
outside a shop and leave it there.
You will retire to an upstairs room.
You will look out through the windows,
out through your hideous mask.

All the handsome boys are playing in the streets.
All the beautiful girls are playing on the green.
None will look up.
None will see your hideous face at the window.

The streets will empty and become quiet.
The moon will rise.

The game itself is the final player.

© John W. Sexton

John W. Sexton’s poetry is widely published and he has been a regular contributor to Live Encounters. A collection of experimentalist poetry, The Nothingness Kit, is now out from Beir Bua. In 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry.

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