‘Julep’ by Alex Bell


Today it is too hot to touch a person.

Things prickle. The grass is the fur of a warm-blooded animal.

We walk into a bar and order juleps. It is a drink we associate with spells, with corset-headaches. I then prescribed her an emetic, some opening powders, and a mint julep.

A man is seeing to a sprig of mint. He tears it into the glass and mashes it.

I take my straw to the best part of the julep, where the sugar-grit mixes with the deep glug of bourbon. The mint throbs in it like a sting.

I think that the ice was crushed by hand. Someone has sweated over this ice. Beads formed on the long contours of their arm, built to a trickle, and referenced the water peeling off the frozen blocks.

This arm was also tattooed, with things like anchors and hearts, sure, but also with tigers, chasing the pale blue veins of the inner arm. The bicep was spotted with exotic fruits, and finally, an ice-cream cone.

The ice-cream was a delicious pink, shaded to perfection on the pale arm of the person crushing the ice, whose favourite flavour of ice-cream was in fact pistachio.

If you run your hand over a person, you can feel round the edges of tattoos, which give the skin a smooth, raised surface.

You are saying a thing, as we reach the bottom of our juleps. The bottom is nothing but melting ice.

Behind you, the slack black gums of a dog make the most perverted smile.
Alex Bell lives and works in London. Her poetry has appeared in Magma, The Rialto, The Quietus, The Morning Star, Poetry Wales and Poems in Which. It has also been included in the anthologies, A Tower Miscellany (Tower Poetry, 2010), Homesickness and Exile (The Emma Press, 2014) and Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear, 2016). She was winner of the Lord Alfred Douglas Prize in 2009, and longlisted for the National Poetry Competition in 2015. Twitter @Jonsonian