“Fallers” by Alex Harper

Alex Harper


I wasn’t used to alcohol except a pint
so when the lads organised a day-trip
to the races and we drank Pimm’s
like it was barley water, on the coach
and more on the course, I was deserted
by my ability to stand.

So I lay on the ground in the public enclosure.
Patrons muttered I was a disgrace
and part of me was ashamed but
the simpler part liked the softness of the grass,
the galloping I could feel but couldn’t see,
and the stillness of it, safety, nowhere left
to fall, nothing to take in but the sky
which was my prize that afternoon,
and worse things than debasement happen
at sea, and there were shit times ahead
so I was grateful for that holiday
from the tyranny of walking or loading my hopes
on a creature resigned to carrying
the one who whips, and unaware
that the Land Rover which shadows the race
contains the vet, who if a crucial bone is broken
mends it with kind noise then darkness,
better the abstract purity of blue, unowned,
untrained, unridden, unwatched by anyone else
that day, and for the space of those hours 
I was winning, happy and undone, until
the light began to fail and it was time to go home,
back to the life with a web of fractures
and black ideas about how it was going to end.

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness


Alex Harper: “Diagnosed over ten years ago, and medication-taking since then, though a few times I’ve fallen off the wagon for the usual delusional reasons (I’m cured!) which, to my regret, never ends well for myself or others round me. I wish I was a daily, diligent, careful, profile-building writer, but there are months I can’t write at all, and then weeks when all language shimmers with possibility and I write a lot. I tell myself, when that phase comes, that this time it will last forever. It never does. So, a patchwork poetry career. A patchwork life.” (website)

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