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Three Poems

SELF-PORTRAIT AS THE OPENING OF A WINDOW ON A HOT MORNING

 

Three men carry a large snake home. This morning, the pantry was empty again,

the sun in the sky like a lemon slice. They daydream of fried potatoes,

mayonnaise like sun-cream. The youngest of the men, a boy, asks the oldest of

the men, his father, to describe the following items: walnut, peach, salt, goat’s

cheese, apple. The father says, ‘Tremendous loss! Tremendous chaos!

Tremendous emptiness! Tremendous cracker! Tremendous yellow!’ and thinks

of a woman who always slept on the sofa as he cleaned her windows. Her legs

like caramel from a tin, another life. The other man, also a boy, the eldest boy,

and also the son of the father, looks at people in the park, all in pairs or groups.

There is a wedding party. He sees the bride’s head over the rows of anemones,

violas and benches, her hair like a stick of liquorice. He thinks of how he has a

particular tree to sit under, how he has spent whole days under there. If he sits

alone all day and talks to no one, does he exist? Sometimes he scavenges change

to buy a bottle of water, just to have spoken. Later, as his parents cut the snake

into rations, as he spins the snake’s skull around his finger, his mother asks if he

wants something to drink, and he believes he has responded. When he sees the

steam rising from their mugs of broth, he accuses her of forgetting him, goes

outside, walks to the river and unsticks a limpet.

 

 

M’S LETTERS TO TUMBLR

 

1.

I called my parents and said ‘I think I have a problem’ I eat until I get to the bottom of the cereal box which is my favourite part I mix the dust of cornflakes with milk to make a paste
my stomach gets round like something is growing inside it
Once a week I walk five minutes to the local Tesco to fill a basket I go up to my bedroom eat as much as possible then put the rest on the kitchen table ‘I bought all of this and I don’t know why’ I say to my housemates and they say ‘if you’re sure?’ and then I go back upstairs again
N made 100 lemon and orange shortbread biscuits to last all eight of us until we go home for break N baked everything but I helped ice them we began intricately then eventually drizzled the icing over the biscuits until they looked like mirrors splashed with toothpaste ‘I’m so tired of doing this’ said N and I knew exactly how she felt
My parents were out with friends they said they’d call me back later or the next morning but it has been three mornings and I’m not sure how long later is

 

 

2.

Last night I cleaned almost every room in this three-storey house and this morning it is filthy again I had to sweep hair shavings into the sink and I cried when my housemates saw they told me I was over-bearing so I bought six peanut butter KitKats and put them in a line on the kitchen surface and wrote ‘I’m sorry’ on a scrap of paper
There are five magpies in the garden and they sit on the fire escape outside my bedroom window and wake me up early every morning tomorrow I am asking them to come earlier so that they can kill me faster than this other thing will
Of the 100 biscuits N made I have eaten fifty N is commenting on how quickly our house eats the things she bakes and is knocking on our doors to ask how many we have eaten I pretend to not be in my room and sneak out only to go to the bathroom

 

 

3.

I wish you would reply to me I particularly like the way you take photos everything is always so colourful my one housemate T only eats green things and laughs at how beige I am but is always taking snacks out of my fridge 

Yes I was in love a year or so ago but life goes on they say being in love is like your favourite book cover being made into a cake and not being in love is crying when the Tesco cashier calls you brave I am trying a new flavour of noodles today and yes that is brave
T is always going to the gym and we are meant to say things like ‘I wish I had your motivation’ and ‘wow you look great’ but people are always saying things to me that they shouldn’t N tells me that I eat a lot and my mother tells me I eat like a bird the magpies outside my window never eat so perhaps my mother is a liar

Here are three things no one knows about me and I’m going to list them one is that my favourite sweets are Parma Violets two is that I can’t eat them any more and three is that Idon’t mind it when there’s no hot water left and my body has to work harder to stay warm

 

 

4.

A woman cried so much she had no water left in her and when she tried to drink she felt it going down then pouring out of a hole under her ribs she was always cold friends would tell her they had seen her old boyfriend and she wanted to tell them to stop but instead nodded and asked questions
The woman sat in a very deep bath and tried to poke water into the hole under her ribs but of course water doesn’t go that way and she sat in there until she was very wrinkled and her skin looked like it was melting and then it did
She was part of the water and liked the silence of it she travelled around as water for a while and felt what it was like to give life to something like a fish or coral she didn’t feel the need to cry any more

 

 

5.

I fell out with N or rather N fell out with me I was too weak to go to L’s birthday party I sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands and N said ‘we all feel tired’ and slammed a cupboard door which was very similar to the way she slammed my bedroom door when I admitted to eating all the biscuits I offered to bake some more I’m actually quite good at it but N had eaten a dinner of just eggs and beans and I think she was trying to prove a point Every time I go shopping I buy two jars of peanut butter the public one which is crunchy and I eat with crackers and the private one which is smooth and I eat from the jar with my hands today I fell over in the shower and couldn’t get up later A said he heard me and wondered what it was
I saw a man in black sports car the roof was down and he was holding onto the steering wheel with one hand and with the other was holding a banana I think I laughed when I got back I was shivering N said ‘you’re always so cold what is that a vitamin thing?’

 

 

6.

Sometimes I imagine you are here too we’ll sit in the shade in the park our pins and needleswill be so bad when we stand up we will laugh until we can walk another friend will get engaged and sit cross-legged on the floor to tell us and another friend will create an ethical mobile phone company from his bedroom and another friend will wear shorts exclusively and we will laugh at his very pale legs I think I always want a different thing like eating a curry with a spoon or chopsticks N won’t stop telling me every time she skips lunch or dinner she has a very empty cupboard and I’m not sure which of us I want to be

When we leave this place we’ll be real friends and maybe won’t have to leave post-it noteson our butter I admit that I have been stealing A’s cheese my mother visited today and sawmy rotten bag of spinach and handed me £20

When we were younger my parents made my sister and I finish our vegetables before we left the table if it was peas we would chew slowly then open our mouths at each other to see what a mess we’d made 

 

 

Sunday roast on a dark wood table

After Gertrude Stein

 

In the inside there is eating, in the outside there is too much
lemon, whole wedges in the casserole, walnuts on their own.
In their own beautiful corners with green and gold glass, forgetting
to bring lunch, chilled butter with dusty green furniture, a sleeve turned
grey from wiping the top of a mirror. In raincoat pockets filled
with shells my mother is slicing a joint of beef with an electric
carving knife, feet in a cold swimming pool, tennis courts lined
with blossom. In the violent luck of this life, I bite into a boiled egg
like an apple; I’m not saying it wouldn’t be better with custard.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Jenna’s debut collection, Fortune Cookie, was awarded the Melita Hume Prize and shortlisted for the Somerset Maugham Award. In 2018, she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. A pamphlet of her prose poems, CLAKE / Interview for is published by Verve. 



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