THREE QUINTAINS

The male-authored sex scene is taboo
to those who think it’s had its day. But still,
I wrote you that the next time we’re attached—
and this you seemed to like—I’ll take my time;
as though I slowly, slowly struck a match.

***

Perhaps the liberal project has to fail,
though not to birth a Phoenix, that old trope.
The project is the Phoenix; but the wind
would better suit the wings of the Alkonost,
whose song convinces us to live with loss.1

***

Those nights when Anna waited for the muse
to visit, ‘flute in hand’, she must have known
it held in fact the antler of a stag—
a clue that this same spur for the Inferno
was not some cliched nymph, but Virgil in drag.2

  1. The Alkonost: Slavic mythical bird whose song compels people to forget everything they know and want.
  2. A response to ‘Muse’ by Anna Akhmatova.

Humphrey ‘Huck’ Astley is a poet and musician based in Oxford, England. His works include the three-part album and stage-show Alexander the Great: a Folk Operetta (PinDrop/PRSF, 2013-15), The Gallows-Humored Melody (Albion Beatnik Press, 2016), and A Christening Sprung from Her Science (Rain over Bouville, 2020). His writing has appeared in various publications including Agenda, The London Magazine, and Poetry London. He is founding editor of The Crank, and an occasional critic.