Amy Key’s pamphlet Instead of Stars is published by Tall Lighthouse. Her work has been published in magazines and various anthologies, most recently in Birdbook (Sidekick Books) and Clinic II (Clinic). She co-hosts The Shuffle reading series at London’s Poetry Café. She enjoys collecting clutter.
I wanted to go to the bottom of the sea
in the drop-net we bought to catch edible
crabs. I had thoughts like the sea bed in soft,
but soft like a bed, so you’re not afraid,
that a shoal of black and white fish
– waitresses – will swim around me
and think me strange. But then I had
other thoughts like how might I breathe
and will the net line break? Then the net
became a pod and I had to wear a mask
but then the sea bed wasn’t soft and all the fish swam away.
‘Capsize’ is from a series of poems based on the film
Where The Wild Things Are.
Poem to Chelsey
He made me cry like a girl denied pink bunting
Left my crockery lustrous with butter
Watched my school-flirt cartwheels
Ate the heads of nasturtiums
Said ‘ruin yourself with these, honey’
Let his doggy off the leash
Sang bawdy at the cream tea
Pushed me over in the daisies
Mistook my toenails for diamantes
Stuck his tongue into the Swiss cheese
Put his linen in the chiller
Knotted the leash to my ankle
Wrote I’m sorry in white petals
Poured cheap brandy on the bite marks
Had a thing for leatherette
Rubbed against the hydrant
Allowed the dog to chew the leash
Cheerled dances in the bathtub
Shot the Pepsi off the ledge
He liked me to wear the gold anklet
Milked it for all he was worth.
‘Poem to Chelsey’ was commissioned for a tribute to
His is a Mystery of Cooling Towers
demolitions and algae.
Oh suitor, thunder me
your elegant curse. Mobbed,
I will magic us to Siberian igloos
where lamps bleed a glow
into our symmetrical clinch.
Or a late shadowed terrace –
cool tumbles of liquor, a hand-painted parasol –
balmy with glossy austerity.
And though I will admit I was a squeeze
more drunk than you (given my rabble
of stunted views), I hold dear these inventions;
last night, after the third time
I noted my wine glass wanting, leaning close
and whispering my cheek
with mushroom-gill lashes, you murmured
You, are a very nice girl.
The Susceptible Heart
Nothing to be done about the sky, its early fall.
You give me match-strike, candelabra, chandelier.
This year, autumn doesn’t matter.
If lit by dawn,
my mind will clamour to recall how our kiss left off,
how the evening’s talk – steeped in dramatics – set off
that wordless flourish. But tonight pours
into your absence. Take this half of ale,
sipped with one eye on your tastes and just now
my fringe swept away with your imagined hand.
Our romance, tracked by a fling of mill-town
horns, an elementary fiction of sweethearts.
for Rebecca Key
The fish gurgle in their outer space light –
I ask “pass me the blanket” and the wineglass
residues are violet and look back at us, like pupils.
To-do lists cascade from the fridge.
Your to-do lists are often niche catalogue orders.
We both eat showy pralines. Alternately, you eat
When you’re distracted I like to hide my finger
in the core of your best ringlet. Upstairs the bath
lies empty and I can’t but think bath oils and towelling.
I harvest garden moss and set it on the floorboards.
The garden is flung with a camouflage of twilights.
We turn the lights down and sit on the moss bed,
compare photos of our favourite light fittings.
If you do me a pedicure, I’ll do you a manicure.
Your eating of the lychees suggests the extent
of your gentleness. My favourite: Hotel Kiev;
yours, in this living room. I choose to breathe
in the space between your breaths.
We’ve declined all other atmospheres:
the room turns aquarium. We sit back,
tune into deep-sea light shows.
Your eyes fill in with yet more green. Once
you sat by my bed until you knew I was dreaming.
I’m in the tight dress. The one that prevents dignified sitting.
The tight dress suggests I’m prepared to be undressed.
Do my thighs flash through the seams?
I try to remember if the bed is made, or unmade.
The wind is wrapping up the sound of our kissing.
I wonder should I undress first or should you undress first.
I’m not sure I can take off the dress in a way that looks good.
I consider if I should save up sex until morning.
We are far gone and I’m better at kissing when sober.
I find that your earlobes provide the current fascination.
On my bedside table are three glasses of water
and my favourite love letter.
I try to untie your shoes in a way that is appalling.
‘His is a Mystery of Cooling Towers’, ‘The Susceptible Heart’,
‘With You’ and ‘Tight Dress’ are published in Instead of Stars
(Tall Lighthouse, 2009).
Order Instead of Stars.
Read more of Amy’s poetry.
Read Amy’s article ‘How to Put On a Poetry Gig’ at Young Poets Network.