VIRGINS by Jesse Darling – World Poetry Day 2022

This World Poetry Day we are sharing a selection of poems by artist Jesse Darling, whose exhibition No Medals No Ribbons is currently on display at Modern Art Oxford.

VIRGINS features in Jesse Darling’s debut collection of poems of the same name, published by Monitor Books and available to browse and purchase in the Modern Art Oxford Shop.


They say we aren’t built for it. This species or another.

Crewcut & fatigued, a swollen head on the box says thin-lipped,

When most people talk about killing,

they are like virgins talking about sex.

A gathered clump of persons, dogs, children,

& their several prosthetics & familiars

with no cock in the fight & all the skin in the game

sit round a borrowed flatscreen on beer crates

to watch it all go down. Holy hero sad maso

kingdom glory shit, you know –

& here we go:

I’m drinking in my overcoat

when the Little Guy comes through.

Stiff legged hatchet faced

in suit jack & jeans, two fisting

cig & tin for the tough slit

of a stiff gob. Don’t shut yer hole.

We eye each other haughtily,

2 bantams clucking in the pen.

Proud, wounded, whatever:

smack down the hand that scatters crumbs in the gutter,

& don’t say thanks for dinner.

Pride is made despite; the likes of you & you & you & you

can’t imagine what it’s like.

They’ll say it’s counterrevolutionary,

but give me milk & mones & money,

whatever can be counted must be loved –

& give me the details of sex in the morning,

life enduring. Let impasse at long last be boring.

Very democratic is the failure of the body,

very democratic is the wait at A&E.

Deskilling as human & pledging secession,

singing shut me up & hold me tight.

We’re waiting down the depot at midnight,

While the uniformed soldiers ignore us.

About VIRGINS, Darling’s debut collection of poems:

“Experiential and mapped, VIRGINS takes us on car rides, through hotel rooms and up close to meat viscera and enamel structures. Oscillating through binaries, concepts of innocence and experience are dragged by their creaturely haunches by ‘gathered clumps’ of characters who play, fight, bathe, fuck and browse on the burning pyre of old ideas.”

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