Whatever they had been told was lies: there was no kind of
deal awaiting them, no siren call. The armistice was signed
but the war had been lost years before and nobody had told
them. Indigo night interrupted by orange explosions on the
horizon, great sweeping clouds of dust making everything
invisible for hours on end, the spotlights bearing down on
them the length of the assault line. We will never know defeat,
they repeated; the words of their leader an idiot’s mantra in
their throats. They spent the whole day waiting for news:
when should they expect the enemy? In the evening, a small
group sat by the linden tree and passed a bottle around. The
dusk obliterated memory. One of the men dreamed of France,
a country he had never been to. People’s lives there are
almost perfect. Something small and forgotten in his soul told
him France was a better place in which to die; that there,
eternity has brushed its sleeve against the land.

by Richard Gwyn

Copyright © Richard Gwyn, 2010.

‘France’ is taken from Sad Giraffe Café by Richard Gwyn, and published by Arc Publications.

Notes courtesy of Arc:

Richard Gwyn grew up in Crickhowell, South Wales. He studied social anthropology at the LSE and worked in factories and as a milkman, before leaving London to spend ten years in aimless travel, settling for periods in Greece and Spain. He returned to the UK in the 1990s and took a PhD in Linguistics at Cardiff University, where he now directs the MA in Creative Writing. He is the author of five collections of poetry and two novels, The Colour of a Dog Running Away and Deep Hanging Out. In addition, he has written many articles and essays and reviews new fiction for The Independent. He has translated poetry from Spanish and Catalan, and his own poetry and fiction have appeared in several languages. You can find out more about Richard Gwyn at his website here.

Sad Giraffe Café, from which ‘France’ is taken, is a collection of prose poems which together form a shifting, progressive narrative. There are three recurring themes: an imaginary and sinister kingdom, a young wanderer named Alice, and a shape-shifting, time-travelling, first-person narrator. The poems seem to be devoid of past or future, existing in an unstable, and at times apocalyptic present. They are peopled by strangers and lodged in an ‘elsewhere’ which is also somehow familiar. They have the feel of dreams masquerading as real events, or else of real events masquerading as dreams. You can find out more about Sad Giraffe Café and read other poems from the book here.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. Find out more about Arc by visiting the publisher’s website, where there are discounts available on Arc books.

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