He had forgotten how to walk,
the child they found roosting
upside down in the cave depths,
cauled in silence and darkness,
arms folded across his chest.
For years he had gleaned beetles
from the chamber floor, snaffled
moths and mosquitoes in mid-air,
lapped from the silted pool at twilight.
Startled by halogen beams,
spelunkers’ thudding boots,
his family, roused from torpor,
had abandoned its crevices, swarmed
above the harnessed men,
through the hibernaculum mouth
and disappeared into the woods.
Now, monitored by behaviourists
behind an observation pane,
the boy huddles on a cot, his head
against his knees, eyes closed,
squeaking as if echolocation
might guide him home.
Shortlisted for the Sol Plaatjie European Union Poetry Award 2012.
My collection, The Suitable Girl, is now available to purchase at the Pindrop Press website (see the bottom of the author page for the Paypal link).
A copy will cost you £7.99 plus £1.00 postage in the United Kingdom or £7.99 plus £2.00 postage if you live overseas.
Alternatively, if you are resident in the United Kingdom, you can send a cheque for £8.99 payable, in sterling, to Pindrop Press, Mallards, Steers Place, Hadlow, Tonbridge, TN11 0HA.
“Michelle McGrane’s lovely book, The Suitable Girl, shows both a sophisticated range of reference from European history and classical mythology, together with a powerful and moving emotional address. There is great technical range here as well, which includes prose poems alongside sinewy lyrics; elegy jostles with imaginative sci-fi, humour with horror in language which is often as gorgeous as it is precise. This is a collection to be celebrated by knowledgeable readers of contemporary poetry, who will keenly anticipate her next.”
– Ian Duhig
“In this, her third collection, Michelle McGrane uncovers that which is transitory and ephemeral and lays it before us in a poetry that is as assured as it is tentative, confident as it is exploratory. Images flash brightly, voices overlap and the world as we experience it is transformed by language into ‘something rich and strange’. Her ear is well-attuned to the natural rhythms of the speaking voice; her tone invariably delicate and highly charged. Here is a poet who is sensitive to the thin membrane that separates us from each other and from the past. These remarkable poems act as a touchstone, a way of reassessing and remaking our perceptions of the world. Whether concentrating her talents into short, beautifully-wrought lyrics or allowing them to expand into sequences and longer poems, McGrane exhibits the same sensitivity to the possibilities of poetry. My contention for a long time is that poetry should be doing more – as it has done in the past and is still capable of doing. This fine collection – by turns meditative, subtly erotic, ‘a conspiracy of gossip and innuendoes’ – is ample proof of its author’s trust in the power of suggestion and evidence that poetry can indeed do more.”
– Ian Parks
The Art of Awakening
Pale-faced and resolute,
the four women wait
to step out of their ink drawing
and walk into the world.
Any second, you will see
a blue vein pulse, an eyelid flutter,
the stretching of a stiff neck.
the quickening breath,
the rapid heartbeat
as blood blossoms through the body.
How one woman
might turn to another
and with untried muscles, smile
before straightening her shoulders
and moving forward, slowly,
to enter the strange, mercurial light.
Ipatiev House, July 1918
Some days, we’re allowed a quiet hour
in the garden. The girls and I sit on the grass,
pearls and diamonds stitched into our corsets.
Alyoshenka dozes, confined to his wheelchair
since the sledding accident on the stairs at Tobolsk.
Yevgeny says he will never walk again.
Beneath palsied poplars, birches and limes,
Nicholas paces the pine palisade, split planks
imprisoning the Voznessenski Street property.
My husband has aged, trim beard streaked grey.
He never wanted to be Tsar.
I search the sky for sun-grazing comets,
the pattern and movement of cumulus clouds,
some divine sign from Our Friend, Rasputin.
A murder of crows recedes on dark wings,
cleaving light, fleeing our fated daguerreotype,
a strangled screech taking seed in my throat.
Note: In April 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, their five children and four retainers were confined to Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. On 17 July 1918, the Romanov family and their servants were murdered by Bolsheviks in the house’s basement and their corpses buried in an unmarked grave outside the Siberian town.
I’m very happy to have had a clutch of poems published recently.
‘The Escape Artist’ appears in Magma 46, edited by Jacqueline Saphra with Norbert Hirschhorn. You can read about the issue’s launch here and order a copy here. ‘Along the Corpse Road’ is forthcoming in Magma 47, edited by Annie Freud with Roberta James.
‘Princesse de Lamballe’ and ‘Terra Marique Potens’ have been published in Horizon Review’s fourth issue, edited by Jane Holland. ‘The Remise of Marie Antoinette’ and ‘Madame Bovary’s Final Visit’ appear in the third issue.
‘Hina Matsuri’, a poem about the Japanese Doll Festival held annually on 3 March, is published in Ink Sweat & Tears, edited by Charles Christian with Helen Ivory.
‘The Giraffe in the Restaurant’ and ‘Paper Flowers’ appear online in incwadi’s autumn issue. ‘Shrine’, ‘Potiphar’s Wife’ and ‘Venice Beach’ were included in the spring issue. incwadi is edited by South African poet, Ingrid Andersen.
A tiny poem, ‘Wicche Jarre’, is published in Now Culture’s short poems issue, edited by Don Zirilli and Gene Myers. To read the short accompanying narrative, click on the text.
I’d like to give a huge thanks to all the editors and ‘behind the scenes’ producers for their time and commitment.
Thirteen Ways with Figs
Silence the village gossip with nutty figs
rolled in crushed peppercorns.
Layer the fiery fruit in a jar between bay leaves.
Store in a dark place for three days.
Leave your offering on her doorstep.
Sweeten your mother-in-law,
a small, crepey woman in a black dress
smelling of mothballs,
with stuffed quails roasted in thick balsamic sauce,
followed by ricotta-rose cheesecake and marzipan-filled figs.
Spill velvet-pink petals over her plate.
Soothe inflamed ulcers and lesions
with a steamed fig, slippery elm, flaxseed poultice.
Wrap around the weeping skin in a muslin cloth.
Pick a ribbed fig from the tree at twilight.
Split the dark cocoon in two.
Rub the wart with amber pulp and seeds.
Tie the halves together again.
Bury them in the flinty earth
under the waning moon.
Cure fatigue, insomnia or nightmares
by boiling milk poured in a pail
with sun-baked figs and turmeric.
Add lavender honey to taste. Drink slowly.
Bind three white Cilento figs
with a crimson ribbon for dreams of love.
Place the fruit under your pillow.
In the morning,
loop the ribbon around your waist.
If your heart is in your mouth,
sear it, eat it with figs.
Beguile your partner with fig-leaf absolute
dabbed along the curve of your neck.
Wear almond blossoms in your hair.
Dance on a terrace with a view of the harbour,
to the flashing grin of an accordionist
who smells of sulphur and plays like the devil.
Clap your hands. This is no time to tiptoe.
On a balmy midsummer evening, wrap up your al fresco meal
at the warped wooden table under the plane tree
with blistered grilled figs, spoonfuls of soft mascarpone
drizzled with orange blossom and rose water.
Smell the mimosa.
Don’t wipe the sugary smudge from your chin.
Carry the sated silence to bed.
Arouse your lover with plump, purple figs in a cool bowl of water.
Break the thin, moist skin with your fingers.
Close your eyes. Listen to your breathing.
On a windy day welcome your new neighbours across the pasture.
Make them feel at home with capocollo,
a sausage of figs, almonds, pistachios and cinnamon.
Fold in leaves
left in a basket on the porch. Follow the dung
trail home, a wasp
hovering at your shoulder.
In autumn, line your pantry shelves with jars of fig jam
scented with cardamom pods. Seal in the sunshine
with smooth wax discs and screw-top lids.
Feed a hungry family
with slow-cooked pork loin and Adriatic fig stuffing.
Serve with golden polenta. Garnish with watercress.
Open bottles of the full bodied local wine.
Taste the olive-wood smoke,
the measure of November’s indulgences.
When the sky pops and hisses with stars,
celebrate the year’s trailing tail.
Prepare fig fillets stuffed with amaretti biscotti
and smoky chocolate slivers.
Serve with steaming espressos before midnight.