Poems

Katya

Not of my own choosing
do my paps darken like muzzles.
My belly slowly swells.
I cannot see my valley now.
I crave for lassi
but they bring us rusty water
in the bottom of a can.

They come and come,
day, night, day,
unbuttoning
as the door slaps against the stucco.
They leave our thighs and faces
crusty with their stink.

And after me,
they hump across on to my mother,
covering her shrunken face
with her heavy dirndl skirt.
She is dry, dry.
Her womb is a husk.

Each day I am ripening.
I do not want this cuckoo
fluttering its rabid wings
in my darkness.
I can see its wild eyes beneath my skin.
It will suck me dry as rock.

Yet, I have practised its birth—
how I will keep my legs far apart,
my eyes screwed shut,
then roll it with my heel in the dust
kicking it and its afterbirth
down the mountainside.

Or, how I will say, Give me my baby,
and boy or girl, call it Katya.
That was my mother’s name.

It’s Only
(A poem about the Humber Estuary.)

The Humber sucks itself in, raising a chain of sandbanks
you could step on and across to a greener county than this.
And be fooled. But it’s that sort of day, unsettled and moody

and here. An unreliable sky. Even the foreshore deceives,
it’s only a common brick. It’s only some ribwort plantain.
It’s only some slack from the works — not a discoidal knife

nor a dinosaur’s scaphoid. A cast iron canon ball.
What is left of this yellow), cliff exposes tired headlines-
horseshoe tile drains and sole plates, a jag of charcoal, a shoe.

Make of them whatever you will. You can read all about
the English homes of the martins, their comings and goings
and gossip. Below, broken mid-word, grey lips from

Roman amphorae above asteroid belts of amber and chalk.
That trickster the Moon’s everywhere
dictating untrustworthy layers. And yes,

it’s only your covert initials I’ve scratched among them
using a flint edge, but in truth, I know everything’s
only a matter of time before it’s changed, rearranged,
like a glacier freeing itself, moving on.

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