My mother, at sixty, tries her first oyster – Cheryl Pearson

My mother, at sixty, tries her first oyster

You eat with your eyes: it’s why you refuse
the grey rice I fry with shiitake, the copper-smelling
steak cooked rare. In Copenhagen, we walk for miles,
stopping for glasses of gold beer. The light swarms
on Nyhavn harbour, turns the water to fire. Mother,
you have the bones of a sparrow, a whale’s hunger.
It becomes the running gag on the trip –
how you pad the hours between meals with waffles,
sneak the fruit from our cocktail sticks. Our last afternoon,
sun-flushed, drunk, we order wine in a yellow courtyard.
It’s happy hour, the waiter says, would you like to try
our oysters? Your face sours. You wouldn’t, no,
but my sister and I each order four. You are sixty this year,
you have always wanted to visit this city. You never thought
you would get on a plane, you didn’t know how pretty it would be:
the blossoms and palaces in the parks, the gold domes against
blue sky. It’s good to try new things, you say, and joking,
my sister offers up an oyster from her plate, trembling lightly
in its socket, wet, grey-white, and mucal. You hesitate, then take it
as we watch, amazed. You take the salt, a spoon of onion, finish
with a twist of lemon. This is an event – more of a surprise
than the March heat, the swan-shaped boats. We train our phones
to film your face. You won’t do it. Your throat works. And then
you take a breath, your whole face screws, and quick as anything
you suck it in, that well of slime, you grimace, chew, then gulp
it back. We cheer and clink our glasses; Actually, you say,
that wasn’t bad! This, all your life, is how it’s been: you’ve stayed
in the lines and away from edges, raw fish, fireworks, roller-coasters.
Now you are sixty, still risk-averse, but trying your feathers.
It’s joyous to watch: our cautious mother choosing fuck-it over fear.

Cheryl Pearson is the author of ‘Oysterlight’ (Pindrop Press) and Menagerie’ (The Emma Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, Mslexia, and The Moth, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Watching the ISS go over during the Covid-19 pandemic – Cheryl Pearson

Watching the ISS go over during the Covid-19 pandemic

I miss the threat of the red button.
The cold thrill of a lump in the breast.
We pine for toilet roll, jarred tomatoes.
The news dooms us, but we are compelled
to watch the tickertape. Politicians.
Death rates. Nurses weeping
into their scrubs. At night we memorise
the ceilings, worry forward: I bury
my mother a dozen times a week. And
yet, there are moments of sweetness.
Last night we dressed, coats over
pyjamas, went outside to the park
at the back. The space station
would be going over; we wanted
to look at the stars. Not essential. But
yes, essential. We hadn’t been out,
we needed to see something marvellous.
We stood and stared. The hammock moon
was luminous. Uncountable stars.
Then there it was – sharp as a scratch.
It followed the wavering line of my finger,
slender clock hand, absolutely dutiful.
The air was cold. The quiet loud.
We breathed into it, held up our phones.
Who reached for whose hand first?
I can’t remember. Only that we
were locked together. A latched gate.
Watching the world go on above us.
We could stay a lamb. A virus. Instead
we made a ballroom of our chests.

Cheryl Pearson is the author of ‘Oysterlight’ (Pindrop Press) and ‘Menagerie’ (The Emma Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, Mslexia, and The Moth, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Featured Publication – Oysterlight by Cheryl Pearson

Our featured publication for December is Oysterlight by Cheryl Pearson, published by Pindrop Press.

In her poem ‘Girl as Star’, Cheryl Pearson writes about ‘a girl held together/by her own gravity’ and it seems to me that this book is held together by its own beautiful and finely-crafted gravity. The poems are built with care and love and with a deep conviction that language not only helps us to survive, it helps us to dance.” Ian McMillan

Oysterlight is a shining debut, filled with nature, love, mythology. Cheryl Pearson gives a voice to angels, Daphne, Orpheus, Medusa, Penelope and Persephone in beautifully crafted poems of startling clarity. I loved it.” Carole Bromley

From interviews with angels to glimpses of selkies, Oysterlight is a magical collection which makes the familiar strange. Cheryl Pearson guides us through landscapes where ‘ghosts are pressed in the print of our boots’. Enchanting, enchanted.” Helen Mort

Oysterlight - Cover 180px


Pre-dawn I wake, and your breathing finds me,
places me into this bed, this room, this
sudden not-quite-morning. You won’t mind me
folding into your side, so I fold; kiss

the tangled mat of hair on your bent arm;
smell the yeasty smell which makes your skin taste
of wheat. Once, in Wales, we went to a farm
where a similar smell rose from the waste

of horses – a homely smell, redolent
of good earth, heat, sweat, physical labour.
I tucked myself into you, nonchalant.
Breathed you in as I do now, bed-neighbour

on this dark dawn, as the clock enforces
order and you dream – perhaps of horses.


Things That Can Be Broken

The road’s back, under boots and drills.
A bad tooth on a peach-pit.
Silences. Mornings. Sleeping-spells.
Stars shivered up in a kicked bucket.

A sick fingernail, ridged with infection.
Mirrors, and windows. A weak lock.
Sandcastle-keeps when the sea returns.
The braid of a fish-spine on a cutting block.

A Christmas wishbone in a pincer-grip.
A voice under fathoms of bad news.
A soft, dropped apple, coughing its pips.
A slow snail under careless shoes.

A fast. A heart. A sapling split
by axes, lightning, rot, disease.
A talcumed grandmother’s chalky hip.
Ice under boot-heels in a winter freeze.

A confidence. A promise. A fever. A skull.
A jilted bride, glittering like dew.
A horse’s leg on a difficult hurdle.
Bread, and circles. Me. You.


Joan Of Arc Waits For The Flames

They burned her horse first, made her watch
as they hustled his gleaming furniture into flame.
His tail, his mane, gone in a shock of sparks.
She hadn’t known a horse could scream like that.
Hadn’t known that pain came in layers, like an onion –
as one was stripped away, another, larger, moulded on the last,
gleamed underneath, brought burning water from her eyes.
When the fire reached his centre, she felt her own heart catch.
How soft then seemed the plates of her armour. How thin her skin,
through which grief flooded like sunlight through glass.
The thought of her own death, so close she could taste it –
fat-spit, lung-burn, sooted rib. Then out of her mind: the rope
of her Voice. Think cold as the flames peel away from your bones.
As her wrists were tied. As the torch-flame leaped. As her hems
and ankles lightened. Think snowmelt. Think
stalactite. Think ice-storms. Think stone.


Insurance Policy

Let my blood run backwards twenty-four months
to the source of this, the source of us. My salmon-cells leaping
back to the dark. Let my heart collapse softly
on the sack of itself, a balloon expelling you
breath by breath. Let my neck forget the syllables you left
with tongue and teeth; let my hands unlearn held
and remember release. Let my bones come loose
from the shape tucked into the sheets at night,
let the moon print newly minted light along my spine.
Let me rock shut like an oyster over the pearl
of what this has become. Which is everything. The world
I cannot conceive of losing. Let me go back further, just in case.
Stars, carbon. A universe of blank space.


Pre-Dawn and Things That Can Be Broken were both previously published in the Best of Manchester Poets anthologies (Puppywolf Press).

Cheryl Pearson lives in Manchester, and has been published widely in the UK and abroad. She won the Torbay Poetry Competition 2017 and the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016. She has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first collection, “Oysterlight”, is available now.

Oysterlight (Pindrop Press, 2017) is available to purchase from:

Salt – Cheryl Pearson


The deer steps slow like a creature
new to legs. I know that kind of care,
watch as she delicately lifts and settles
each stem of herself. I could pour
into her. Those stars on her back
are the freckles that rise – the dipper,
the bear – on my shoulder. And now,
see, as she stops by the lick of salt
I left at the fence: a slice of sea for her.
How she curls her tongue around
my world as I hold my breath in hers.


Cheryl Pearson lives in Manchester. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, Under The Radar, The High Window, and Poetry NorthWest. Her first full poetry collection, “Oysterlight”, was published by Pindrop Press in March 2017.

The Beekeeper’s Wife – Cheryl Pearson

The Beekeeper’s Wife

They fuzz him into loveliness.
A roving gold,
like dark water strummed by light.
The liquid sun
of honey on the sill, all morning
through glass.

It is out there he is most alive.
In the stilled green, the razed grass.
It is out there he thrills
in the centre of his silence.
His beard’s dazzle
and stitch, the endless hum
of the swarm.

Only the bees fly in his garden.
The laundry waves
white flags from the yard.

In bee-heaven, his is the shape
they make. Bringer
of combs and sweetenings,
milk-smelling God –

I tend the hollyhocks,
stroke barks back
into the dog.


Cheryl Pearson lives in Manchester. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, Under The Radar, The High Window, and Poetry NorthWest. Her first full poetry collection, “Oysterlight”, was published by Pindrop Press in March 2017.
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