Skilled labour


If you really love someone imagine a team of world-class plastic surgeons very delicately harvesting their face en bloc – hairline to neck – taking special care to preserve retention ligaments then expediting it, the face, by high-speed courier to the oak-bark tanners who cure it in formaldehyde, stretch it on a rack to the size of, let’s say, a domestic trampoline, these dimensions precisely matched by the sculptor who builds up the chickenwire armature replica of the loved-one’s skull and beautiful, complex ears, using layers of dental plaster, gesso and a hessian scrim, before the face is glued back on, septum and eye slots trimmed, the surface groomed for the photorealistic painters’ lash-thin brushes to accurately capture the three equidistant forehead wrinkles which resemble waves taking shape out at sea.

Jost Haas, last of the great ocularists, blows the eyes by hand, matches not just colour but the tributary veins of the sclera, captures the soul while resisting the urge to romanticise, after which wigmakers spritz strips of cotton lace, pin them to the scalp’s perimeter before the bonded locks of a hundred strangers are sewn to the weft with a ventilating needle and only then is the whole structure winched atop a scaffold, set some way back in the garden, just far enough that the face appears the same size as the one across the table.






Who killed these people?


Alex did,
with his left-the-gas-on breath.
It was not me it was Annette
who does not sleep.
Through her door each night
I hear the tearing human flesh.
Eczema is stress-related.
It flares up when I hear
our neighbour blitzing
his victims, calling it juice.
That’s your toxins talking.
The culprit is Patricia who
formaldehydes her fingernails
so they look like pretty claws.
Please. The childless couple
at number ten make elderberry jam.
I’ve seen it hang in muslin
like a freshly popped-out eye.
Come, let’s point the finger
at whichever finger pointed first.
Now who of you was sensitive






O positive Joe dunthorne

These poems are taken from Joe Dunthorne’s collection O Positive, published by Faber & Faber.
Photograph © Rosmarie Voegtli

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