Monthly Archives: June 2013

Emily Berry: ‘A Sculpture about a Phone Call’

Emily Berry 
Emily Berry is a poet, freelance writer and editor. She grew up in London and studied English Literature at Leeds University and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College. An Eric Gregory Award winner in 2008, she co-edits the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives and is a contributor to The Breakfast Bible, a compendium of breakfasts published by Bloomsbury. Her debut poetry collection is Dear Boy, published by Faber & Faber.
Dear Boy 
Dear Boy (Faber & Faber, 2013) is the dramatic and inventive debut by Emily Berry. These characterful, intelligent and darkly witty poems explore lives lived strangely in unusual worlds, through a series of deft and seductive soliloquies.

In a collection with a taste for ventriloquy and wickedness, and a flair for vocal cross-dressing, the balance of power is always shifting in an unexpected direction – an ingénue masquerades as a femme fatale, a doctor appears more disturbed than his patient, and parents seem more unruly than their children. Eccentric, intimate, arch, anxious, decadent and sometimes mournful, the book’s confiding, conversational voices tell stories recognisable and refracted, carried along by the undercurrent on which the collection ebbs and rides: the anguish and energy brought about by a long-distance love affair, which propels and terrorises and ultimately unites the work.”
“Dramatic, honest, unstable and beautiful, what unites these poems is Berry’s understanding that absence is to love as wind is to fire: it may extinguish the small, but it kindles the great.”
– Ben Wilkinson, Guardian
“Disarming as often as it is charming, Dear Boy is an epistle to make one feel at once urgently wanted and spun right around upside down. It is, as Berry herself puts it, where “the language showed its seams” – and we are the dazed and fascinated visitors stumbling across its accidence.”
– Lytton Smith, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Reading this collection, which ranges widely in voice, is like meeting an unusual person whom you’d like to befriend. You can’t anticipate everything she will do or say – and some of it seems a bit much from time to time – but you want to know her more and better. You begin somehow to crave her company.”

– Jared Bland, Globe & Mail
A Sculpture about a Phone Call
Some people seem to have the language for speaking about their own work very fluently – I am still not sure I have learnt the language for talking about mine. It’s like trying to explain one mode of communication via another very different kind, like telling someone about a phone call through the medium of sculpture. Still, a sculpture about a phone call could be something interesting.
The way many poets talk about their collections makes it seem as though there must have been a point for them at which ‘writing poems’ became ‘writing a collection of poems’. This was not really the case for me with Dear Boy, which only really became itself – that is, a collection of poems, rather than forty individual poems in a row – when it was named.
The naming of books is a difficult matter. My friend and important poet-advisor (code name ‘Dewdrop’) suggested I call it The *TOP SECRET* And As Yet Draft Manuscript Of Emily Berry, which is what I had written on the front. So that was one option. Dear Boy was pretty much the only other. As I recall ‘Dewdrop’ picked it out from a very short and unconvincing list of possibilities I had effectively dismissed, and it was suddenly clear that this was the title. It brought together the themes in the book before I had noticed what they were. I now see it as suggesting various different moods – lovesick, sentimental, stern, camp and arch, as well as drawing out one of the key strands in the book: love letters written to a boy. What I like about the title is I feel it could easily be the name of a Young Adult romance novel – maybe this is why one reviewer said the book read like ‘an unusually discerning teenage girl’s diary’. I was happy with that assessment. I think teenage girls’ diaries should get more airtime generally.
The oldest poem in Dear Boy is ‘Two Budgies’, which was written in 2005 or 2006. The oldest phrase, though, is the title of the first poem, ‘Our Love Could Spoil Dinner’, which I wrote in poetry fridge-magnets on my best friend’s mother’s fridge when I was eighteen, circa 1999. I always liked the phrase so I kept hold of it, hoping it would come in useful one day. So there is a bit of genuine teenage girl in the book. Maybe the title and the poem finally came together because the poem in fact features a precocious young-girl character, who could arguably be described as ‘unusually discerning’. A similar character appears in the linked poems ‘The Incredible History of Patient M.’, David’ and ‘Manners’, though I wouldn’t want to state definitively whether or not they are the same person. The inspiration behind this/these character/s probably came from the children’s book Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight, about a mischievous six-year-old who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York with her nanny. It was given to me by an American family friend when I was nine or so and I rediscovered it a few years ago – I had written ‘Please do not tear’ sternly in the front. (I must have had a bad experience with ‘tearing’, because this strange injunction appears in the front of many of my childhood books.) Eloise is illustrated in pink and black and the text (all in Eloise’s voice) is laid out almost verse-style alongside the illustrations. She says things like:
          Nanny is my nurse
          She wears tissue paper in her dress
          and you can hear it
          She is English and has 8 hairpins
          made out of bones
          She says that’s all she needs in
          this life for Lord’s sake
I like how Nanny’s turn of phrase becomes something extra special the way Eloise reports it, and I adopted this style in ‘David’, a poem not uncoincidentally about a girl in the care of her (in this case) rather volatile nurse.
For me a poem is always a voice, and I am often struck by any kind of compelling voice. Nutty evangelical preachers are a favourite, and things said by unhinged people in general. I guess any kind of dogmatic statement is essentially a bit unhinged. I have a fascination with American Gothic, particularly Southern Gothic, which has its fair share of evangelical preachers. I see the Arlene poems, ‘’Sweet Arlene’ and ‘Arlene’s House’ as having an American Gothic theme (though they don’t have to be read that way). They’re poems about a domestic kind of terror. America does the Unheimliche – Freud’s idea about the eeriness of the unfamiliar familiar – really well, at least for a British person. American domestic scenes are so familiar to British people of my generation because of film and TV, and just embedded in the imagination is some intractable way, but at the same time it’s not really our culture, so it remains somehow other. Sorry to quote Wikipedia, but it says “Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or disorienting characters, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events”, which makes me think I like Southern Gothic even more. Arlene is certainly a character like that, yet she holds some indefinable power over the narrator of the poem, which is where the fear comes from. The poems are about being beholden to some deeply unstable yet compelling authority, which is something that worries and interests me a lot.
‘Sweet Arlene’ begins with the line “In Arlene’s house we live above the mutilated floor”. Many of my poems begin with some sort of statement (maybe the unhinged kind mentioned above). “No one told me Times Square was a triangle”, “The mango’s bone is like a cuttlefish”, “I bit on the absolute nerve”. The poems that begin this way usually did literally begin with the first line. Sometimes one of these phrases occurs to me and I have it for a few years before it develops into anything. This was the case with the Times Square line. I visited New York twice about two years apart and after I’d been the second time I was able to add the rest of the poem to the first line. On that trip I was nearly hit on the head by a copy of Dylan Thomas’s poems while walking through Manhattan – it seemed to fall out of the sky, but must have been thrown out of the window of a nearby bookshop (but why?! Someone took such exception to Mr Thomas’s verse that they had to defenestrate it immediately?). It would have been ridiculous not to put that in a poem.
Because of these statementy openings, now that the poems are all together in a collection I wonder if the effect is a bit overwhelming – like being at Speakers’ Corner, or in a room full of actors. I’m not sure any of my poems are very good at teamwork. This is maybe one of the difficulties of putting a collection together – that suddenly a whole bunch of poems, which you have worked so hard to make robustly independent, have to learn how to live alongside others of their kind. There’s a poem by Joe Dunthorne called ‘All my friends regardless’ which begins “All my friends regardless / come to my garden and pretend to get along” – it plays on the awkwardness of bringing together all the different types of people one knows at an event. Deciding on the order of poems in the collection seemed to me a bit like that. Who should sit next to who? This is one of the reasons I never have parties! Sometimes I open the book and look at them all in there, and I wonder how they’re getting along. But mostly I just leave them to it.
Order Dear Boy (Faber & Faber, 2013) here and here.
Visit Emily’s website.
Sam Riviere interviews Emily for The Quietus.

Review links
Read Ben Wilkinson’s Guardian review
Read Kate Kellaway’s Observer review.
Read Lytton Smith’s Los Angeles Review of Books review.
Read Jared Bland’s Globe & Mail review.
Read Christopher Crawford’s B O D Y review.
Read Rebecca Tamás’ Literateur review.
Read Zeljka Marosevic’s Review 31 review.


Days of Roses II

Cover artwork© Rachel Howard

Cover artwork© Rachel Howard

Contributors are Liz Berry, Robert Selby, Harriet Moore, Lydia Macpherson, André Naffis-Sahely, Alan Buckley, Declan Ryan, Malene Engelund, William Searle and Rory Waterman.
The Sea of Talk
Liz Berry

for dad
That last Summer before school robbed language
from my mouth and parcelled it up in endless
Ladybird Books, you made me a boat of words
and pushed us off from the jetty into the Sea of Talk.
You let the waves navigate. My fingers stroked shoals
of nouns in the chatter – goosegog, peony – ,
verbs slithering, electric as eels in the seagrass.
All August we sailed, the vast shadows of stories
trawling below us: ‘ow the lights waz out the night
you waz born … the secret in the marlpit up Batman’s Hill …
then further out, deeper, those first vowels we’d spoken,
filmy and shapeshifting as jellyfish in the dark.
You let me swim in the shallows until the moon drew
the murmuring tides to her breast. Then you made a net
of your arms and hauled me in, kissed your thumb
to my small mouth, my barnacle ears, whispered:
Bab, little wench, dow forget this place,
its babble never caught by ink or book
fer on land, school is singin’ its siren song
an oysters close their lips upon pearls in the mud.
Black Country/Standard
goosegog/gooseberry          dow/don’t

The Burning of the Pets
Lydia Macpherson
Today they start the burning of the pets.
The wind is in the right direction,
the sky is blue and flecked with larks
and fighter planes, the weather’s set
and it’s as good a day as any to burn pets.
There are economies of scale and pets
who die before the rest must wait in piles
like fur coats on a party bed until
the latecomers catch up, collarless
and stiffening, for the bonfire of the pets.
They come in unmarked vans and pets
who, living, would have bickered now sleep
easily together, the Dobermans and flopsy bunnies,
tabbies curled with mice and gerbils, paws and claws
and hooves and tails, a jumbled bestiary of pets.
There are no funerals for the pets:
the forklift hoicks them down the chute
like laundry in a hospital, a button’s pressed,
a fat man settles with his Daily Sport and tea
to wait for the incineration of the pets.
Tomorrow they’ll box up the pets
in plastic urns of varied size:
a lucky dip of bones and teeth,
which, parcelled out to owners,
will complete the burning of the pets.
Previously published in The Rialto.
An Island of Strangers
André Naffis-Sahely

The roof was the place to be. I was fifteen
and in love with ash-cans, pigeon coops,
women hanging their laundry. There was a fifty-
foot portrait of the King – always smiling –
by the sea, overlooking a busy junction;
like an ad for toothpaste or mouthwash.
At night, the shore on the west side of town
was the quietest, where hotels, natashas and haram
coalesced into parties. Every half-lit room
was a sure sign of orgasms and the passing
of money from stranger to stranger. Anything
interesting and pleasurable was haram. I envied
the King, and his sons, all eighteen of them.
The King was virile, a patriarch, Abraham on Viagra,
the rest of his people were on Prozac. Everywhere
the eye looked was money, the nose, meanwhile,
hit only sweat: acrid, pugnacious, pervasive.
Most of the boys I knew sucked Butane, smoked,
saved up for whores, waited for their parole in the summer:
each back to their own country. Come September
the dissatisfied return; misfit mutts, at home every-
and nowhere. A friend compared cosmopolitanism
to being stuck at summer camp, to waiting for parents
who never showed up. In the twentieth year of his smile,
the King finally died. His mausoleum is a meringue: wavy,
white, empty . . . His sons have gone on squabbling, playing
‘whose is biggest’ with bricks; one by one, they die in car crashes.
Days of heat strokes, kif and blood-thirsty Ferraris.
Alan Buckley
for Kate
Although your mobile must be lying still
and unblinking on a bedside table,
or stuffed in a bag with a pointless diary,
tonight I ring it one last time, and hear
your voice, clear, unwavering, as you ask me
to please leave a message after the tone,
and then I try to pretend you’re busy,
writing songs on your scuffed acoustic, or down
in the lush, quiet county you were born in,
hands on the steering wheel’s leopard-print cover,
casually speeding south through a warren
of hedge-bound lanes, stone bridges, up over
Eggardon Hill, to the place you’d go to stare
at the waves, and breathe the incoming air.
First prize, Wigtown Poetry Competition.
From Alun Lewis
Declan Ryan
There is nothing that can save today, darling,
you not being here. You MUST write.
It’s impossible to breathe otherwise.
I’m only talking of the things I really NEED.
I’m so tired of travelling away from you.
I think of you all the bloody time. Do you mind?
This isn’t an answer or a letter –
it’s only a cup of coffee after lunch.
Many things I’ve been unable to remember
came to me last night.
You sitting like a babu at a desk
in the bowels of the G.P.O.
You standing in the quartier latin corridor
of the Hotel Marina on Sunday afternoon
after the cinema saying ‘Alright, pay the taxi. Let’s stay.’
When I saw you on Saturday July 24th
you were the flash of a sword.
Now I’m hopelessly shut into the camp life again.
A soccer match, a disjointed conversation at dinner,
a visit to the reading room to see how things go:
oh and a longing beyond words.
There’s a fat dove strutting across the lawn
by the bougainvillea.
I wish I could be strolling with you
looking at the rose moles all in stipple
in your little stream.
One way or another I make a lot of shadows where I go.
Don’t worry over the hairs on my head.
May you not be tried harder than you can bear.
Let there be an again, New Year. Save us.
Previously published in Poetry Review.
from Days of Roses II.
Days of Roses II is available in London at Daunt Books and Foyles.
Order Days of Roses II.

Kobus Moolman’s Left Over

Kobus Moolman 
Kobus Moolman was born in 1964 in Pietermaritzburg. He has published five previous collections of poetry, as well as several plays. He has also edited an anthology by South African writers living with disabilities. He has been awarded several literary awards, including the Ingrid Jonker Prize. He teaches creative writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. Left Over is published by Dye Hard Press, Johannesburg.
Left Over 
“There is a relentless asking in Moolman’s poems … Left Over feels like a follow-on to Light and After, a continuation of the growing power of Moolman’s voice as a poet. It’s a voice that opens up as it breaks (breaks up?), resists false closure.”
– Alan Finlay
“Kobus Moolman’s elliptical, foreshortened poetry opens up a world of exploration and heightened experience from which the reader eventually emerges, chastened but delighted. These are poems of acumen, depth and extraordinary pressure.”
– Kelwyn Sole
Back to School
It is the middle of January. And it is hot. The air is still. The air is filled with the electricity of cicadas. He called them Christmas beetles when he was young. Hot. The middle of January. He hears the two young boys playing next door in their swimming pool. The last day of the school holidays. He hears the two young boys screaming and splashing. Hears them calling out to each other: Watch me! Watch me! Watch me! The day before the boys go back to school. Back to School adverts on television. Back to School specials at the supermarkets and discount stores. Specials on stationery and grey socks and boys’ shorts and black shoes, girls’ grey skirts and short-sleeved white shirts, exercise books and coloured koki pens and crayons with all the colours including gold and silver and flesh. He remembers being the same age as the boys splashing next door in their pool. He remembers that his parents could only afford to buy the pack of six crayons – that did not have silver or gold or flesh. He remembers what the last day of the Christmas holidays felt like. His family did not have a pool. They stayed at home for the holidays. They celebrated Christmas with his father’s side of the family. At Cedara. Or at Lion’s River. Dargle. His father’s side of the family did not have swimming pools either. They were Afrikaans. They had pellet guns and katties and gravel roads leading up to their houses and front stoeps and back stoeps and stoeps that went around three sides of their houses and gum trees and long grass and chickens that cackled in a hok at the back and crazy dogs that had to be locked up when anyone came to visit. He remembers that if he and his younger brother wanted to swim when they were at home then they had to go across the road to the Dewar’s. The Dewars had a round plastic pool that stood behind their house. The pool was not sunk into the ground, so he and his brother had to climb up a metal ladder in order to get into it. The Dewars had no dogs and they had no young children, but he never felt welcome going to swim there. It always felt to him as if he and his brother made too much noise or splashed too much water over the side of the plastic pool. And there was little fun to be had in paddling slowly around with his mouth closed. Now he hears the two young boys screaming and splashing next door. It is the last day of the boys’ school holidays. Tomorrow they will wake up early. Tomorrow their mother will drive them off to school and drop them outside the school gate. He remembers that he and his brother got a lift to school with the girl who was the most unpopular girl in his class. She wore glasses. And her ankles were fat. Her parents owned a fish and chip shop. And they were always late in picking him up. He was always late for school. Even on the first day of the new school year.


The man was actually happy
The man was actually happy. In fact, he was so happy that he decided to make himself unhappy. To punish himself. For his happiness. So that he could not be taken by surprise one day by unhappiness. Therefore the man separated from the beautiful woman with whom he was happy. And he took up with a different woman every night. And every night he was unhappy. Because every night he managed to find a woman more beautiful than the previous. And every night it was brought home to him – after he had taken off their clothes, after he had seen and touched their beautiful bodies – every night it was brought home to him that there would not be enough women in the world for him to find the right one whose beauty would make him happy. Incomparably happy. And so every night he was unhappy. Every night he was unhappy because he knew that he had started out upon a road that had no end. And no return either.    
They come again
They come again, the dark birds of clamour.
Their heavy wings beat like blows upon an anvil, like blows
        upon a metal bar.
They choke and grind the coarse gears of their voices.
In the distance the setting sun is a dry furnace – a back-draft
        that sucks all the air
and light out of the world.
Only the small chime of silver bells can hold off the clamour.
Only the thin scent of a blue flower can push back the dark.
The man bends
The man bends and grasps the hard metal of the weight. He strains to lift it off the girl’s heart. She does not say a word. This dark-haired girl. This girl who lives beneath the metal weight with open eyes and a small mouth. And the man stretches the muscles in his arms and strains his back. Because he wants so much to help the dark-haired girl. He wants so much to free her heart. To see her breathe again. After a lifetime of holding her breath.
Even so late in the day
Even so late in the day
so far from where he started
so far along the road
with so much distance behind him
so many rooms swept clean
so many boxes sealed and labelled
something still is eating its way through his brain
something still is gnawing away
at the thoughts behind his eyes
something that will not let go of him
something that is hell-bent on ruining him
from the inside out.
Here Now
He is sitting on an old log. He hears children’s voices in the distance behind him. The sun is out. There are green hills in the distance. Some of the hills are forested and some are bare, with white bales dotted across them. And others are brown and ploughed. He is here because he has not gone. He is here because he has decided to remain instead. To sit and hear the birds and the traffic on the road behind him and the donkeys braying in the paddock and the sheep. It is all now, this moment when the doves call in the trees around him, and the cicadas and the crickets. It is all here. Everything that makes up what he is now is all around him. It is slightly cold across his skin – as usual he is bare-chested – and his book is upon his lap and his hat lies beside him on the log. Slowly, softly, the branches of the willow tree stir in the wind. The round leaves of the eucalyptus tree are transparent when they fall across the sun behind them. The sun is out, although there are a few white clouds in the sky. He hears children’s voices again. And two starlings flash in front of him across the garden. And a single swallow rises into the sky, so high that it disappears. There are patches of green moss on the old log where he is sitting. He writes as fast as he can because he is trying to match the words that he knows with all the things that are around him. There are many things around him that he cannot find words for. Because they happen so quickly. Because they happen all at once, and it is difficult for him to separate them. A laughing dove starts up its low watery call. It reminds him of the music lessons in junior school. He thinks of the small silver instrument that was like a little bowl or a jug. It had a thin sharply-pointed spout, and if the teacher filled the bowl with water from the concrete sink in the corner of the room (the children were not allowed to do it because they invariably messed), and if you blew down the spout then the water inside bubbled and made a cheerful and rolling sound. It also reminds him of visiting his father’s family at Lion’s River, where his father’s second cousin was the station master. When he was much younger, when he was still a boy, in his little safari suit. And there was a sky there. Just like now. And there was a steep hillside. And there was a rocky road leading up it that his father always complained about driving. And there was an outside toilet. And there were doves and pigeons that they used to shoot with a pellet gun. These memories cling to him like thick and slowly moving water. Like mud. And he moves slowly through these memories like a man in quick-sand. Like a man sinking into something that rises all around him.
from Left Over (Dye Hard Press, 2013).
Kobus Moolman’s Left Over is published by Dye Hard Press, Johannesburg, and will soon be available at Exclusive Books countrywide for an estimated price of R125. Alternatively, it is available directly from the publisher for R100, including postage. Email:
Visit Dye Hard Press.

Angela Readman: Six Poems

Angela Readman’s collection Strip was published by Salt. Her poems have since been commended in the Arvon International Poetry Competition, and won the Ragged Raven and Essex Poetry Competitions. She was shortlisted in the 2013 Jane Martin Poetry Prize. ‘Return to Sodom’ was published in 2012 by Kumquat. The other five poems are new work.
Return to Sodom
Curiously, I returned to Sodom to visit
the woman worth her weight in Amen’s.
The sky was a widow, veiled as the best of us.
I saw a temple’s old coals, the pitched stones
of houses, the coliseum – a begging bowl for rain.
Specks, in the city that burned people still lived,
eyes charcoaled to skulls, palms lined in sketches
of who, and how they had loved. Somehow hands
reached, pale robes taking fingerprints of every touch.
Everywhere, children flitted like feathers, feathers,
tiny soldiers, bone swords held clean above heads.
They lay on their backs, played dead. Then, flaps,
vast arms swept filthy angels out of ash. And there,
in the market, stood the woman who looked back,
so many tiny fires of home stitched into one inferno.
Birds, preserved mid flight, lay offerings of wings,
cured meat at her feet. I touched her lips like mine,
white, worn where sick horses licked. I bowed,
and swept salt off a hem. I left, and did not turn back,
just a minute of another woman’s hourglass in a pouch
on a string around my neck; grains moved on my chest.
Beatrix Potter’s Bed
I never told you how when I saw the sows
birthing I could no longer draw pigs in red velvet.
The sounds curl around me like tails, drag me
back to watch you digging all day. One hand
brushes a fringe from your eyes, we look,
rabbits in our garden, eyes hopping into holes.
The sky’s a blue jacket, snared on a fence,
I suppose tonight we’ll try again. But, for now,
we have daylight to farm, hours to bump into,
glimpses of each other to snatch. You: lips wind raw,
knee deep in sheep. Me: knuckles radish red/white
pounding dough. Tonight we will pull back the sheets
like squirrels making a raft of twigs, open the basket
and pour a hundred pictures the day paints of us
over the bed, so full, I can’t see room for more.
Clytemnestra’s Closet
In the moth theatre of my mother’s closet,
I find Father’s chiton curled into a ball.
I bundle it to my nose to inhale one morning
unarmed, his only one with me I can recall.
Back from the temple, he sat outside alone, sword
and my sister’s sandals, sleeping dogs at his feet.
This cloth is frayed sunlight, I hold Father
lifting me up, clutching me close like a shield,
my hand in his, a scrap of map folded into a map
of somewhere a man wishes he’d never been.
Mrs Rochester
Some ladies can gauge it, sadness drips in,
rain in her attic. A man turns away,
a dwindle of eyes. And she is paper,
curling at the edges, her smile in ashes.
The day we wed I felt naked as snowdrops,
carted white nods to spring popping up
in winter’s shadow by the stable, blistering
the frozen earth. Yes, it was that to make him love.
His kiss was ice-cream, bit to the nerve
of each tooth, my head ached. Yet I wanted it,
sharp joy and pain. Each dowdy sketch of me
blazed in his grasp, cinders in his mouth.
He said I was mad when I told him I’d love
to paint us asleep like snowmen, who’s who
melted, arms and legs bleeding into a drift of bed.
If I’d known, I’d have one picture now,
a view of who we were to guzzle like water
to put out the fire that starts at the mouth
and keeps going all the way down. Flickers light
our best rooms then raze us to the ground.
Emily Brontë Misses Her Portrait, Again
The lamp sets fire to the oil of my sister’s eyes
on the portrait watching me come in too late.
The space on the canvas waits for me, a white egg.
I want to crack out of it in green, laid on the moors
like a patch on a burnt dress, my eyes rain
and blinking, a collar of mist above my breast.
There is room for my animals, I see, a hospital
that follows me everywhere I go: Blackbirds
flown ragged, hares with boxed ears, a limp of badgers
like night’s nervous curates, all sick and all mine.
Everyone should hold something broken, love it fixed,
or at least try. There’s not always time for portraiture.
There are starved dogs to feed and arms to be bitten.
I gape into a mouth telling me to stay clear of wild things,
close it with a hot poker. The scar is heather silk.
And I want the portrait to show it, me and my scars.
I sit and listen to sable sssssh red to a lip, brush
that fox who sniffed me out all summer into my hair.
The Long April of Electra
With more than one way to kill a mother,
I plot to love her and be loved till it hurts.
Our smiles into shivs, father wounds
we won’t find for years. I’ve learnt to whistle
like a God breathing prophecy into chimneys –
cut to the nerve. I see hairs on her neck stand
like a woman about to bear bad news. I step
into tender seconds trying on Mother’s shoes.
Lifting a moth off her robe, I recall one night
she braided Cassandra’s hair, knuckles moons,
floating on, swallowed by a river of oil.
The sky is lemonade spilt into this room.
I see hands squeeze a woman from a clay figure
set to be widow – zest at her lips, wine pressed
from wry grapes. The sheets are fields, raked
by a man who never went to war, sweat decorating
his chest in gold beads chaining her hands.
And I am free, to place daffodils in an urn,
Trojan horses. A charge of yellow muzzles sniff
troughs of the bed, wait to roll through the wall.