One day – how can I know which? – I lose my diary. Brain lurches into the chasm of the year: who is expecting me, and where? Who is even now drumming their fingers on Formica, alone with their agenda and their forbearing frown?
There is terror, then liberation. Everything is unexpected: friends drop by, then don’t. I make appointments, note them on a nearby banana, which I eat. The whole world is continually in rooms and restaurants without me.
Encouraged, I throw my alarm out of the window, put my watch in the bath. My phone is a landline, it is 1997 – I presume. It cannot remind me of anything and almost everything is yet to happen.
The days are short and frosty, then fresh, then long. At last I panic. It is nearing the time when I will meet you, but nothing can tell me when. The town hall clock, beneath which we will meet, is broken. I walk there every day as the sun goes down and look around me, wondering if I will recognise your face.
Livvy Hanks has an MA in Literary Translation from the University of East Anglia, and worked as an editor before moving into policy and campaigning work. Her poetry was most recently published in Lighthouse. She lives in Norwich. Twitter: @livvyhanks
Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library, for the archive. There you watch footage from the war, scan blown glass, missile drops, train stations.
A home video, newly surfaced, downloaded from an ancient iPhone: refugees crossing at Medyka, waiting to board buses, going west. The librarians know to call you when this happens.
You would know it anywhere, her coat; too distinctive to miss with its lupin-coloured quilting, fake-fur collar and the striped pixie hood she swore made her invisible.
Sometimes you catch the train into the city, the central library, for the archive, hoping to see her – you and her – that exact moment when she was there at Medyka, holding your hand. And then not.
By now you know them better than you know your own, the librarians – where they go for lunch, the park bench, summer, winter, their children and grand-children: whether their coats have hoods.
Jacqueline Haskell’s first poetry collection, Stroking Cerberus, was published by Myriad Editions in 2020 – https://myriadeditions.com/books/stroking-cerberus/ – as part of the Spotlight Books series. Her debut novel, The Auspice, was a finalist in both the 2018 Bath Novel Award and the 2020 Cinnamon International Literature Prize.
I hear voices of unborn babies most nights and sometimes in the day; they should have been held in my arms. And his. Did he pass me by, neither of us realising?
Was he the commuter who offered his seat, the waiter who winked as he gave me too much change, or the driver of a sporty two-seater who stopped so I could cross?
He could be at the party, brought along by a friend of a friend, line up behind me at a checkout, or stop me on the street with a questionnaire. Time chased away
those children like a fairytale monster – ogre, evil troll, big bad wolf – through the woods and out of the life which could have been mine. And his.
Poet, producer and presenter, Jill Abram is Director of the collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. She grew up in Manchester, travelled the world and now lives in Brixton. Her pamphlet, Forgetting My Father, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in May 2023. jillabram.co.uk
They told me they found two owls, two dead owls, and they supposed the owls must have flown down the chimney and the owls had no way of knowing how to fly back up the chimney into the night sky. They died a desiccated death and they told me if I’d seen the owls, I would have cried. The owls were barn owls, beautiful and the extraordinary thing was the weight of the owls, incredibly and unexpectedly light. They put the owls in a bin bag because owls are a protected species and this is what the town hall said must be done and to drop off the owls at the town hall. I wanted to know more about the owls and asked if they died together but no one owl died at one end of the loft and the other owl not especially nearby.
Lisa Kelly’s first collection, A Map Towards Fluency, (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021. She is co-editor of What Meets the Eye, (Arachne Press) an anthology of poetry and short fiction by UK D/deaf writers.
A mouth has been at the bins again. On the District Line, I find egg stuck to my Nikes. Kid in my class asks: they Air Force 1? & I feel my wrinkles. So I wash my face in London’s spit, until Simple is on offer. Am I grown yet? I watch YouTube tutorials from my office chair; catch a flash of grey in my Groovy-Chic mirror; have now realised it really isn’t possible to kick a pigeon. The new housemate is in the shower again. I wish I knew how to look after my damn plants. I could be pregnant right now. The only thing I own of my Oma’s is her hair, in a box. I cry when I miss the 37 bus. They are terribly irregular. How could I have known I would not need all these dresses. The sea is pouring from my wardrobe. Maybe I should get out of the house. Watch the green ducklings, iridescent nappies. A world with more coke products than tigers. My screen asks: Want to add a free drink to your order? I should wake up from my desk now, it’s been two years. John’s been awaiting my email.
Ella Dorman-Gajic is a London-based playwright, poet & performer. Her writing has been described as “impassioned” by The Guardian. Her debut play Trade premiered at Omnibus Theatre in 2022. She’s part of the Roundhouse Poetry collective & alumna of Apples & Snakes Writing Room. https://www.elladorman-gajic.co.uk/
She peels off her summer dress and empties a jug of water over her head. The day smoulders like a smoking wick. She can feel the dying grass beneath her feet; a single bead dripping slowly between her shoulder-blades down to the small of her back. Pale blossoms curl, shrink to a cinder. Now follows the scent of fireweed, honeysuckle and dark peppery nettles. From tall trees a sudden flint-spark of birdsong threatens this whole valley with flame. She smiles. An idle finger teases cirrus-clouds from a tender seam of blue sky. She never wants you to stop watching.
Siegfried Baber was born in Devon in 1989 and his poetry has featured in a variety of publications including Under The Radar, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog Magazine, online with The Compass Magazine and Ink, Sweat and Tears, and as part of the Bath Literature Festival. His debut pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid was published by Telltale Press, with its title poem nominated for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. In 2019, he published London Road West, an ebook of poems and photographs. A debut collection, The Twice-Turned Earth, is forthcoming.
Though it’s the same smell as my mother’s workroom
Vermeer did not paint me.
Please never say, to me, woman with disabilities.
They are not jewels. I cannot put them down.
Nuala Watt’s poems have appeared on BBC Radio 3 and in anthologies including Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press 2017) and A Year of Scottish Poems (Macmillan 2018)
Marion Oxley is originally from Manchester but now lives in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. Her debut pamphlet In the Taxidermist’s House was published in October last year by 4Word Press. She is a Forward Prize nominee for best single poem.