Andy Breckenbridge

What The Albino Catfish Had To Say About Love

(Barbels are the whiskery appendages around this animal’s mouth. ‘Skelf’ is the Scottish word for splinter)

Submerged under a million sheets of glass, 
you meet up in the botanic gardens

edge past the Venus flytrap, stumble on 
the pipes of the watering system. 

Giant leaves hold quicksilver droplets.
The humid air is bark infused and grips your faces. 

You seem to inhale skelfs. Swarms of Latin names
hover on metal signs beside plants.

A white shadow lopes from beneath the leaves, 
murk and pipework of the pond and softly

oars the surface, with its moon gleam that pulls, 
with it’s downturned mouth not tripping it, 

with its barbels that taste, touch and smell 
in the dark, with its red tinted glasses. 

It’s been around a while. Experts lovingly 
construct and preserve taxonomies for 

every living thing. Years later she will 
remind you of the name you both gave this fish.

Now, the air is bark infused and grips your faces. 
You inhale skelfs. One catches in your throat.

All The Teeth In The Sea

On the tip and sides of my tongue. 
Always there and I’m rarely aware 

of them, though in anxiety dreams 
they crumble like damp sand, pop 

out like ink cartridges. The front two, 
a pair of full sails, slice on like breezy 

ambassadors. Towards the back 
they are elephants feet, millstones built 

for the engine room. They are two half rings 
of standing stones crowding as they 

settle and lean. Jets of water forced 
through the gaps, pull on a seaweed of 

apple skin, sweet corn pericarp. The void 
where one was removed with a rocking motion 

beneath the moderate swell of gas and air. 
Three ground to flat stumps when the 

welding would no longer hold, then reefed
with glue and porcelain. Some seem ready

for scuttling, yellow as music from old 
piano keys, written on ancient scrolls.

The Mortuary Attendant Considers Change

Bored by his drab tuna mayonnaise 
sandwich, the body laid out on the slab.  

Heart attack or RTA or stab wound 
he won’t be saying a prayer for those in 

the long deep drawers. The runners squeal like 
slowing trains. Coffee from his flask washes 

down the last mouthful. He sees his hazy 
reflection against the ranks of metal doors, 

knows his cuboid capsule is booked in this 
death hotel where he is head receptionist.

Add chilli and a few capers next time 
or why not crab or salami instead? 

Iced tea? Training is how to distract yourself 
from what is right in front of you. How you 

self mechanise. Flip, glib and distance 
are three of the stars he has pinned on his 

breast pocket. Tomorrow he’ll take his break. 
Eat and drink something similar with one hand 

scroll through Instagram with the other, 
trying to hitch somewhere, thumbing a heart.

Andy is an English teacher living in Brighton but originally from Oban. His poetry looks at the experience of living a long way from where he was brought up, and how this has shaped feelings and attitudes towards people and places, past and present. 

His pamphlet, The Liquid Air, was published by Dreich in July 2021. He also has work published by Green Ink, Acid Bath, Nutmeg Magazine, The Common Breath Poetry Blog, The Poetry Map Of Scotland, and the Shoreham Wordfest Anthology and in two Dreich anthologies. He is currently editing his debut collection and writing poems about fish. 

@drbafc

Flights, Issue Three, December 2021