St. Anthony in the Wilderness

by Fanxi Liu

I had intended to write about language, twisting together the various strands of my degree and eclectic personal interests into a modern monstrosity that reads as if it had been processed through the digestive system of a very sick cat. Coy, cryptic sideways-glances at complex philosophical concepts with impressive institutional pedigrees, with any lapse in understanding elegantly erased by an unprecedented connection to the delightfully esoteric. The faint crackle of interdisciplinary fission, the electric stillness just before Creation, so tantalisingly suggestive of incipient intellectual re-invention, blinding, brilliant: the tough-shelled walnut of all life’s katzenjammer smashed open in one inexorable stroke.

However, I then realised that the concentration of people in Oxford who might know what I’m pretending at talking about is far too high. Safety in obscurity: this is an afternoon’s idle traipse down a hitherto-forgotten alley of my GCSE Art research.


The polyester was an unbearable lightness. The soles of his feet cracked and weeping,
hardly able to stand the shirt sticking to his back; breath rasping 
with the thick black tang of ram’s blood, the first sacrifice of the day.
Twelve years in the desert: he has shed his hair, his teeth, and now his skin 
when he peels back the gauze-light fabric, comes away almost intact.

Kitsch is an ugly word in any language. This had pricked at him,
a grain of sand in an open sore, but sometimes these dissonances  
creep like waif-thin schoolchildren to the edges of the city in the great famine of 1958
teeth gleaming fever-frenzied as they tore the bark from the trees under the cover of night;
sometimes all there is to eat is bitterness. 

In the distance, dust devils rise in shimmers in the desert air, great sheets of gauze
stretched taut over the empty frames of displacement. The children had grown
like trees through a chain-link fence: the old madness fused deep into their bones
but for the ache when the winter chill veins their shrunken limbs blue.
If he thinks now of their bleeding fingers bleeding gums, he can forgive them.

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford, written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff. New issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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