Recompense (Luke Best)

David with the Head of Goliath (Rome) — Caravaggio


There’s a boy on the wall of my writing space:
the all-dark 3a.m. cubicle. Windows starts-up
too loud and stirs the house. There’s no click
for Curtains, so I cover the screen.
Swollen knuckles light up, plump
as lychees. It was a night out—
I’ve beaten a man to death.


The boy on the wall—half-chested—does not look at me.
My fingers are in slings. I’ve sat myself down, 
my gaze flounders in the pond of a blank page.
The cursor taunts write write write, I prod the keys:
Downtown Hometown was my Valley of Elah tonight.
CCTV committed me to memory. If one punch kills,
a flurry disassembles.


I didn’t take his head like the boy on the wall—
shoulder crane plucking a clump, young jaw gleaming
resolve. You won’t find it here, rolling on the now-lit
tiles of dawn, carotid artery pumping air. I hear a megaphone—
no call to breakfast. The front door swallows its tongue. I’m on my face,
cuffed and tased, thinking: poetic license or self-implication.
For thrill or just something to write about.


After the Book of Esther

I’m fifty cubits up,
looking down my nose,
pondering pedestals.

This small town looks
wider than when
I’m down there in her.

Is the step into a death
like the step into a garment?
Or is it simply

standing on a chair,
having someone
kick its shins?

We fall
into pits
we dig
for others.

I hadn’t read the Psalms
for long enough, that
they became lyrics mis-
remembered, misconstrued. 

Lonely on these stakes
we impale ourselves on.
Sorrily skewered,
we call it recompense.


Luke Best lives in Toowoomba where he was born in 1982. He has been published in Overland, Mascara Literary Review, Tincture Journal & Concrescence and has performed his poetry at QLD Poetry Festival. His verse novel, Cadaver Dog, won the 2019 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and is due to be published by University of Queensland Press in 2020.