eyes brace the page
like distant land
breaking the horizon,

and out of the language,
images wade like sailors
up the shallows,
their ships briefly docked

in bustling port-towns
where white wooden
houses pock the cliff-face
and strong, welcome smells

pierce the sea-breeze and brine,
hungry for warm cornbread, with
thick crayfish chowder and wine,
or cooked meat, clean water... well,

whatever wares the first
salt-specked sea-wife
steering the tavern
chances to sell.

The Singing Lesson

Stop. It is wrong to sing a funeral song
in the conservatoire. No, try this tune instead:
‘Watch the spring / lift the frost / from the grass...’

Gently straighten your back, slacken your jaw.
Feel your head float upon your neck, like a boat
buoyant on sober, glassy seas. Above the water.

Good, very good. Keep singing, and listen:
You mustn’t wield the lament lightly, or wear it
without a blackened cause, a grave intent.

Remember, when you work the dirge
voices of the dead ring you like a bell.
A delicate wind-chime whirled in a gale.

Yes, you are the site of a light conversion,
translate to slight vibrations a breath,
but do not forget the source: the storm

should squall within you, rushing in
through the soles of your feet, the wind
in your hair. The boat is full of holes

and water floods the deck. Adrift,
you cannot steer. You can only float
in a shell of weathered wood, the word.

‘and when the winter / whitens the field,
the snow below / shines like steel
across the plains / the sun remains...’

Stop. Well done, you exhibit remarkable
restraint and control. You see, with the
right design a place awaits you on stage,

I am sure. Now, once again from the start...

‘Watch the spring / lift the frost / from the grass...’

Momento Mori

The precarious surface, scratched
and fickle as a weatherman
projected on the hardened facts
of days and nights, obscures the walls
like mirrored glass. The boughs having
fallen out of use, we installed these fragile branches who sensed their
own dry snap when we spoke their name

and now a thousand poems lie
defunct and useless, as all the
arbitrary constellations
our fathers forgot to mention
revive their narrative beams in
ancient gardens, where paths are lined
with trees that shimmer out of air
to shake the glossy morning dew
and sprout romantic, dying boughs.



The contents of the shadow is irrelevant.
It’s the shape that wakes interpretation,
and black marks printed on a blank
page become projectors, sprung amphitheatres

of what is not seen, not heard, not touched.
Nothing but a shadow, who’s suggestion
is a rich and empty darkness. Just on time,
I have laid the table, prepared the food.

Let me take your coat, and pull up a chair.
I will light the candles momentarily, there,
and suddenly the word contains within it
all of the aspirations and failures of glass.


Come, I know a place. In Winter, the frost
shears the windows of their use, but if you
step in through this door, you can connect
those muffled shouts that frothed the street

with sound to busy mouths and discernible
words, if you so desire. Why don’t you stand,
here by the fireside, so you can feel the heat
while you string them into sentences, careful

to weave them in amongst the warm smell
of beer, the burnt smell of whiskey, the weft
of wooden floorboards and plush barstools,
threads of sense against the warp of place.


Listen, a song arranges itself inside a voice,
two voices, until a wealth of voice resounds,
creaking at the joints as the song extends it’s
web and the air becomes a tenuous structure

that collapses into the rubble of applause. O!
Did you see me smile? Let me buy you a drink,
dear friend, and listen as the old man grumbles
that the singer is just the sign of song, explains:

the sea’s ‘blue’ is a mere remembrance,
given the water’s wild refrain is only
the wind reworking ancient quotations,
stoic lines taken from the clear, blue sky.

Next time she saw him: "O we were so
disappointed you did not come” —
“I was there,” said Ryder, “I looked through the
window - saw the lovely lights - it was very beautiful.”

- Marsden Hartley

Business Hours

We celebrated everything
successfully, without intent
but is that something one can lose?
Abandoned on the coastal path
we watched the rockets weave between
the lighthouse stars, narrowly miss
each one by a few thousand miles.
Clouds exercised no such caution
rewarding rain, unwelcome gift
returned to sender endlessly.
The planes are leaving us behind.

A vast cracking came unannounced
but it was mistaken for morning
and regarded as meaningless.
The mistake was only rectified
when the juror shared a sleepless night
with the rabbits in the rabbit-hutch
and the rabbits shuffling far without,
adhering to their business hours.


Do not expect applause, 2021

BIO: Gabriel Levine Brislin

I am an Intermedia Art student and writer interested in performance, language and poetry. My work usually centres around text and speech with a focus on sound and installation, however this year, with the absence of exhibition spaces, I have spent more time writing for the page. In my artistic practice, notions of traditional performance and audience are always important to me and I am interested in exploring the spaces in which these relationships break down. Current projects include ‘Do Not Expect Applause’, a wide ranging, research orientated work centred around Edith Piaf’s later performances and her relationship to the stage.

In my writing, I hope to emphasise the mutability of language and the living material of words. Poetry has always been a distinct influence on my artwork and this year I have been attempting to blur the boundaries between the two, trying to consider my writing as a central part of my artistic practice.

Back to the hallway...