Poems

’25 minutes on the elliptical’

My body slowed in voluntary, wilful suspended animation / like thought / I am waiting / on the cross-trainer   Window fly in front / you are dead / which is a kind of waiting   Arms and legs snapping towards each other / like rows of teeth in a great big mouth   Do…

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‘Watching the Nestbox’ by Anna Selby — Primers Shortlist 2018

Watching the Nestbox May 22nd to July 19th 2018 To hold a dying bird in your hands is like holding an argument: hot little thudding hot scuffle of feathers all angles and escape a body flooded, bolting. Its feathers peek between your fingers: reptilian tongues. A breath-a breath-abreath. Put it in your mouth like a…

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‘an ill wind’ by Charlotte Baldwin – Primers Shortlist 2018

Charlotte Baldwin works as an arts centre programmer, teaches creative writing and walks dogs.  

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‘Form Up’ by Sally Davis – Primers Shortlist 2018

Form Up One day you wake up and you’re fighting a different war. It’s like every day is drill on the rain-slick barrack square and you’re parading past the brass and every head is turned and every boot comes down, and everything is in its place except your heart. The Padre offers you a ciggie…

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‘You’ by Amelia Loulli – Primers Shortlist 2018

You You came in the night       put your hands around her cheeks and yanked her     from my nipple    or   if You didn’t    You stole all the food     fed Yourself     on the bread I baked that afternoon        grew bigger    or  if not      You hid    in the corners stealing glances   of moments You called mistakes    warned would…

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‘To be fifteen’ by Victoria Richards – Primers Shortlist 2018

To be fifteen and after the third can of Super Strongbow cider, to throw up all over the embossed wallpaper belonging to that girl in the year above, the one with the bra straps and dirty jokes. She breathes in smoke without coughing, says, “alright?” to the most beautiful boy at school, the most beautiful…

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‘After Adlestrop (for Helen Thomas)’ by Valerie Bence – Primers Shortlist 2018

After Adlestrop (for Helen Thomas) As usual, it is not widely known that you were there beside him in that carriage, at that station, suffused in sunlight and birdsong when someone cleared their throat as no-one left and no-one came. As usual, you are invisible — the hidden framework, an underpinning without which he would crumble,…

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‘Catholic Girl Ghazal’ by Rachel Burns – Primers Shortlist 2018

Catholic Girl Ghazal Gotta love us Catholic girls, worshipping Madonna, singing Madonna mimicking her dress, the crop short sexy tops, just like Madonna. We are good Catholic girls, dare to bare our navel girls, chewing Wrigley’s gum hoops in our ears, crucifixes swinging from our necks, sexy like Madonna. Look, now we’re meeting up with…

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‘Last eclipse’ by Nina Powles – Primers Shortlist 2018

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’17 Forensic Ways I Know You’

D18S51, There is no-one like you. There is a 1 in a quintillion chance of there being someone like you, but still not you. I would know, with every sense I would know D21S11, I could pick the bouquet of your sweaty t-shirt from a line-up of sweaty t-shirts D3S1358, Who else would naturally select…

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‘The Specular City’

The city caught me in strings of orange light. I left behind those still and airless years in which counting each slow hour of suburban dark I sat, wanting my life to take new shape. And so many silences, and the glances of strangers – cold weights on the skin I struggled beneath. Neons, night…

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‘How to go home’

Drive back to the house where you were born. Open her old cookbook, press your fingers onto her pen’s scrawl. Take tweezers: tease a hair from your old doll’s clothes. Play a hymn, its melody clear as light

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‘Being a true account of the voyage of Vincenzo Lunardi’

Fire Late September morning, and a chill in the Edinburgh air, but the gathering crowds are warm with wonder, and the ladies feverish for the hot-blooded adventurer – the man who knows how to fly. Thirty bottles of oil of vitriol into a vat of iron filings, and the limp sack of silk expands and…

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‘Fairy Tales and Stepmonsters’

I wish I’d held your hand more often. it would have been easy. I wish I’d worried less and made a nest of my fingers for it to curl inside, it used to slip into mine anyway. Do you remember the models we made out of cardboard and paper? Rockets and market stalls and castles…

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‘Emma’s Attitudes’

“She is better than anything in Nature. In her particular way she is finer than anything that is to be found in antique art.” Sir William Hamilton   Arachne Nursemaid, barmaid, perched on the Flintshire front stoop, weaving Bacchante Dancing at the Temple of Health and Hymen; atop Sir Harry’s table, deliciously displayed Circe John…

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‘The Emptiness of Things’

I pour you into notebooks, stacking them on my nightstand next to the clock, candle, matches– hoping the emptiness of things will rub off on you. Ripping out pages, I burn them one by one, only to discover you’ve settled in corners and on dishes and found your way into the spines of books. Across…

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‘The Park’

In matching green anoraks, rain or shine, they walk here every morning, she a little taller than he, leaning on his arm, three times clockwise round the park, keeping themselves to themselves,   keeping to the path by the railings where once they saw a gang of young offenders plant daffodils; admire the clumps of…

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‘Ice Storm’

Shuffling to the bus stop with the boyfriend who’d cut his visit short, cracked plastic wheels of his cheap suitcase juddering on the ice, I clutched at his coat sleeve and missed. Chin grazed, that deep-freeze smell up my nose, gloveless hands stinging. Close up: thousands of bubbles, suspended in ice. Beneath the cloudy layers,…

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‘asana’

forward fold rolling down each vertebrae the top of the duvet until i’m a penknife or a nutcracker. swing elbows swing head. ensure the release. massage the belly by squeezing it on the thighs good for the guts. a gutsy move this one it makes the hamstrings shriek. a most decisive vulnerability. shift weight to…

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‘Half-empty’ by Romalyn Ante – Primers Shortlist 2017

‘The Philippines must be half-empty; you’re all here running the NHS’ – Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh Drug: Migrationazoline (available in full or half-empty bottles) Indications: ____– prophylaxis of parents who nag like masonry drills, ______saying they did not send you to college ______to be a health-centre volunteer ____– ulcers on the lips for eating…

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‘Baby’ by Amelia Loulli – Primers Shortlist 2017

Most people drown without _______making a noise or splashing. See me here Baby, watch me _______lying out plank, below the surface, all that stillness, all that _______peace, see how long I can breathe down here alone. You must _______trust me, I am your mother after all, don’t think about the firefighter who _______lies to the…

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‘To The Wounded Among Us*’ by Sarala Estruch – Primers Shortlist 2017

  But everyone is wounded a little. What are hearts but purple, pumping wounds? What are we but hearts travelling in skin suits? Today we are tired of listening. This morning we woke with our ears full, cochleae still reverberating with gunshot and the bombs we detonated yesterday in yet another failed coup to colonise…

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‘Athenian Light’ by Kostya Tsolákis – Primers Shortlist 2017

I was born into it in late September, when it’s sweet and hued at sunset like the seeded flesh of figs. Smog meddled with it at the time, hanging over Athens like bad history. And growing up, what use was lyrical light when stuck two hours every day in an airless school bus, my biggest…

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‘Elders of the Pot’ by Jasmine Cooray – Primers Shortlist 2017

They sit in a rainbow of re-used jam jars, watch the traffic of the kitchen, hold proverb and gossip in their gnarled shapes and powders. Every wooden spoon is yellow to the neck. Turmeric, coriander, mustard seed land on the heat of inherited pans, smoke their sour huck into the corners of the house, leak…

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‘Garam Aandey’ by Aisha Hassan – Primers Shortlist 2017

Those ancient cobbles hum with heat long after sundown the shrill cry of the boy with the thermos full of hard boiled eggs for sale the donkey pulling the cart of bananas – refusing to move as the doodh wallah on his bike delivers the milk door to door And here is rain that is…

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