A Distillation after John Jarmain

by | March 30, 2022

A Distillation after John Jarmain1


Bells in the grey-faced murk

View pride, black prayer.

she bickers with the wax beneath her nail

Lilies keep in powdered wrecks,      bending

Crowded by hope                         brittle,

                                     bloodless, all-bone wrists

                           into prayer without a god

          post without a seal   and half a wall,

scratching, scrawling,            Recall glory crossing wire deserts

ink-blot creeping where memory was

In garlands of rusted men,

her fingers pressing like a forehead

And finding     against his       fame in the sand.

Ten days of     fly-screen      vacant chaos—

Days of   green-eyed face,  foaming remains

   the flag flies 

       hangnails tear ribbons from her

And half a holy ground.        skin

                 she is made thin through the peephole

Smoking powder flowers       of a door whose bell never sings,

Halt the dark                   grim as the doormat’s flat sober grin

she petals, presses talcum powder into her pores


slips, pours over magazines,

and its unrung bells,

   she will wait, she thinks,

The flecks of minefield fame;      until

The lilies watch warm men    she can’t

Become a single         remember his



1The Distillation is a novel verse form, devised by Joshua Judson. It takes an existing poem, with an even number of lines, then a poem is written using only the words from the original. It must be exactly half the original line count and retain the poem’s title.


Words by Coco Cottam. Art by Millie Dean-Lewis.