The Sunday Poem – Carole Coates


I’m going to post a poem each Sunday on here – and I thought I would start with a poem by Carole Coates after hearing her read last night at A Poem and A Pint. 

I chose this poem after finding it in a folder dating from five years ago when I was having a clear out earlier in the week.  The folder was entitled “My Favourite Poems’ and inside there were poems by various people that I’d written out by hand.  The very first one was this poem ‘Stalker’ by Carole Coates. 

Carole has two collections out with Shoestring Press, ‘The Goodbye Edition’ and ‘Looking Good’.  She also has a third collection coming out in June with Shoestring called ‘Swallowing Stones’ which we heard her read from last night.  This collection is set entirely in a fictional country – if you are into fantasy fiction, as I am, you will enjoy it. 

This poem comes from her first collection ‘The Goodbye Edition’.  I think it demonstrates the kind of poetry Carole is known for – it’s quite dark, we never really know whether the voice of the poem succeeds in getting away from the ominous male figure, but the claustrophobic atmosphere of the poem is lifted, I believe by the singing quality of some of the lines:

I gave you the desolate road on and on
and the collapsing stars and I said Now
you try to live without air or a skin

Anyway, Carole’s website, if you would like to know more about her poetry is and Carole’s publisher’s website is

Here is the poem

Stalker by Carole Coates
from The Goodbye Edition, Shoestring Press

I told you to go
over and over
but you had to follow me
dragging the horizons too near.

You would be waiting always.
You crept behind the rail of the station
you crawled like the clock’s hands
up to my carriage, you held my skirt.
You put your hand palm flat against the glass.

When we went to the pub there was nowhere
else.  It was the end of all possibilities, nothing
was left, the stars were going out, light shrinking,
the fog nearer, my breath almost gone. 

I telephoned.  You patrolled the box.
You looked at me through the glass.
You put your hand palm flat against the glass.

(The only road on – the desolate road
the road where the light fell desolate
the road that led to the sea
the road to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse eye – its endless look
and long finger of light.
I went through the darkness and the long
finger of light crept after me
and the little bushes on the cliff didn’t hide me
and the little cabins in the fields didn’t hide me
I was on the edge of the cliff
and the air was gone and the stars were gone
and the look of the lighthouse found me.)

And we were walking to the pub and there was nothing
but the long look of the light and the long finger of light
and we walked by the simple shop windows framing simple things
which I could no longer understand because I had gone
beyond all those simple things and I wanted nothing
just to go from this one moment to the next moment.

I was walking to the pub with you and I was dying.
I said over and over I will save my life and knew
how to save my life again and I told you to go
and I gave you the eye and finger of light
I gave you the desolate road on and on
and the collapsing stars and I said Now
you try to live without air or a skin.

I told you to go.  You still come to my window
to place your hand palm flat against the glass.
You write your name on the scraps of paper
that blow down the street.  If you could
you would suck the air from my house.
You would blow it down if you could
with your breath.  You would sow
my roses with maggots to speak your name.

You would crawl without skin through the airless dark.
You would place your hand palm flat against my heart
if you could.

                                                                            I told you to go.

3 responses »

  1. Thanks for saying such nice things about me, Kim. I just wanted to say that in the next book “Swallowing Stones” the country I invent – Kor ( a name I pinched from Rider Haggard’s “She” ) is entirely fiction and fantasy etc but I go along with Marianne Moore’s definition of poetry as “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”. Kor has a misogynist religious culture which oppresses women but everything that happens to them is/has happened to women in the “real world”. In fact, I turned on the TV after the reading on Saturday and found an article on the news about the Philippines where the RC Church is trying to prevent the Govt bringing in a bill offering free contraception. They’ve already stopped this bill being passed several times before and contraception costs a week’s wages for the poor. In fact, news from Kor…

    • Thanks for this reply Carole. This is really interesting – and yes, the fact that the poems have one foot in the ‘imaginary’ world, in that they are set in a fictional country, but the other foot in reality regarding the events you describe, is probably one of the things that made them so compelling,

  2. Pingback: Sunday Poem – Carole Coates | Kim Moore

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