Poetry: "She Studies 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu' & 'The Slack Wire' by Brian Comber



She studies 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu


In her jumble box of toys and action figures

are the frequent fliers,

the superheroes and Disney characters

or fast food give aways

and in the deeper reaches are the ones that rarely see light of day.

She knows they're there, this one, The Archer

might have rocked up at Agincourt, the weight on the front foot

the back torsioned against the bow

beside the Scorpion, with a bloated orange, segmented tail

and sagging thorax teeming with young.

Gog, a cereal box tiger and Magog a Pierrot doll,

grapple in a violent embrace,

they've been locked in this for days,

one will fade from exhaustion while the other stamps

and keeps punching,

on other days she leaves two figures gazing

out of her attic window at the cranes and temples

and returns at dusk to find

the two headed blue snake holds the robot by the throat

good, she thinks, they've sorted that out.

The endless permutations of who beats who

in trials of strength sends her up these back stairs some afternoons

to dig through them, they live out their petty grievances

in hand-to-hand fights to the death when not observed.

She moves among them as a ponderous demi-god

arranging their struggles which resolve unseen.

The Archer holds his bow string taught for a volley into the French ranks

the Scorpion circles behind him

so he doesn't see the moment

when the moment comes.



The slack wire


She wakes up over the fairground

thunder rolls in from the plains, the wire is dusted with ice.

A baby strapped to her back rises and falls while

far below children file into schools, traffic lights change

and the forest line recedes.


Forty feet above the rail yards

the wind whips across the canal and

wrapped in silence she stiffens.

A couple halt to watch her, the figure

on the high wire, then more,

holding their 'phones.


Her fibreglass balance pole is

greasy with sweat, the cable hangs


from the safety platform,

a simple harmonic motion builds

as the crowd pulls apart

grit from the fields drifts about the base.


She rises, kicks the wet sheets from her ankles

and steadies herself, tremors begin

in each outstretched arm with

the absolute weight of every day,

she might take a ball to throw from hand to hand,

the wire cuts into her flesh,


from the ground

she is thrilling

dressed in a suit of lights

with a cinched waist,

loping backwards. She could jump from here


but her ankles might snap like celery stalks

as she'd once seen happen,

drivers glance up at the stick woman against a brilliant sky

curling her feet about the whipcord steel,

shivering, about to fall,

the way she now lives, the way she lives now.






Brian Comber (he/him) lives in Worcestershire in England and writes poetry together with occasional flash fiction and short stories. He really enjoys spoken word events and has appeared regularly at such evenings in Worcester for many years (more recently online of course). He is a member of the Worcester Writers' Circle. He's had poems published by Picaroon Poetry, Prole Poetry, The Beach Hut, Gentian journal, Feral Poetry, Dear Reader, Wild Pressed books, Re-side, Emberr and Selcouth Station. Brian has recently had poetry pamphlets published by Black Pear Press and by Cerasus Poetry. He worked for many years with people experiencing acute and long term mental health difficulties and also those with impaired mental capacity (particularly in later life) and that work has influenced his thoughts and writing in areas such as inclusiveness, communication and human rights. Twitter @briancomber