The Aitken Alexander Isolation Series: a new poem by Andrew McMillan



for how many years

had you carried it

before you felt it


how long had it sat

growing as you grew

built of your own skin


tumour   parasite

and ticking   ticking

until you looked


who was it showed you?

who gave you the key?

your not-self   sick-self


the long snake body

of your blood wrapped

tight around your brain


and you opened it

found it would not shut

no matter how long


you screamed in your bed

panic loosed      bedlam



Andrew McMillan’s latest collection is the Polari Prize-winning playtime, published by Jonathan Cape.