Suffragette

And if you saw her hiding in the air ducts of Parliament
it was only to listen to the speeches.

And if she set fire to post boxes and burnt letters,
it was only certain envelopes she put pepper in.

And if she threw a rock or two, at one carriage
or another, they were, at least, wrapped in words:

rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.
And if, being imprisoned, her and a thousand like her

went on hunger strike, at least no one died –
the Cat and Mouse Act of 1913

sent the starving women out on licence,
and brought them back when they were well again.

And if an angry guard forced a hose inside her cell
and filled it with water, at least she didn’t drown.

And if she hid in a cupboard in the House of Commons
the night of the Census it was only to claim it

as her official residence.  And if her friends delivered
themselves as human letters to Downing Street,

but were sent back, unopened, at least they made
the news.  And, not knowing whether she chose

to die or whether in her dreams, she saw the king’s horse
flying through the line, her sash around its neck,

at least we know of the bruised shins of the horse,
of the jockey, ‘haunted by that woman’s face.’

I”m Thinking Of My Father

I’m thinking of my father in the backyard
throwing more and more wood on the fire
as the slow dusk of summer descends
he’s throwing more wood on the fire

as his brother lies dying, but then I think
aren’t we all dying, but he knows,
my uncle, he knows what will kill him,
a tumour the size of a fist and growing

and still my father throws wood on the fire
as the new cherry blossom tree waits
to be planted, he throws wood on the fire
while my mother sits and watches TV

and outside the fire gets higher.  My father
cuts wood with a saw that screams as if someone
is dying and he doesn’t care about splinters
or safety as long as the fire gets higher.

And all the stone lions and grave little gnomes
in their cheerful red breeches are waiting
for the fire to falter, and the lamp that’s addicted
to heat flickers on, flickers off and the lawn sits

in its shadows and dark and its falsehoods
and the ending begins with its terrible face,
its strange way of being, its short way of living
and my father stops throwing wood on the fire.

Teaching The Trumpet

I say: imagine you are drinking a glass of air.
Let the coldness hit the back of your throat.

Raise your shoulders to your ears, now let
them be.  Get your cheeks to grip your teeth.

Imagine you are spitting tea leaves
from your tongue to start each note

so each one becomes the beginning of a word.
Sing the note inside your head then match it.

At home lie on the floor and pile books
on your stomach to check your breathing.

Or try and pin paper to the wall just by blowing.
I say: remember the man who played so loud

he burst a blood vessel in his eye?  This was
because he was drunk, although I don’t tell

them that.  I say it was because he was young,
and full of himself, and far away from home.

If We Could Speak Like Wolves

if I could wait for weeks for the slightest change
in you, then each day hurt you in a dozen
different ways, bite heart-shaped chunks
of flesh from your thighs to test if you flinch
or if you could be trusted to endure,

if I could rub my scent along your shins to make
you mine, if a mistake could be followed
by instant retribution and end with you
rolling over to expose the stubble and grace
of your throat, if it could be forgotten

the moment the wind changed, if my eyes
could sharpen to yellow, if we journeyed
each night for miles, taking it in turns
to lead, if we could know by smell
what we are born to, if before we met

we sent our lonely howls across the estuary
where in the fading light wader birds stiffen
and take to the air, then we could agree
a role for each of us, more complicated
than alpha, more simple than marriage,

37 responses »

  1. I loved hearing these two poems at Shindig on Monday, Kim, and am reading your pamphlet with your voice in my head.

  2. there’s a typo in the first poem, ‘someon’ instead of ‘someone’. That aside, I just bought ‘if we could speak like wolves’ and am enjoying it immensely

  3. Hi Kim.
    I think your poetry is wonderful – it’s so sparse and lucid, if that makes any sense. I will be buying your pamphlet.
    Did you write the Suffragette poem for the Emily Inspires competition? I was just wondering because I entered that, too.
    Best wishes – I’m so glad I found your work.

    Catherine

    • Hi Catherine
      Thanks very much for your kind comments. No, I didn’t write the Suffragette poem for the Emily Inspires competition – it was written quite a while ago and published in Poetry London a year or so ago…

      Good luck with the competition!

      If you would like a pamphlet, you can order one through my blog. I am planning on putting up postage rates next week, so now is a good time to order one!

      Best wishes
      Kim

  4. Thanks Kim – I’ll be doing that.
    A poem that I wrote about Emily Davison received a highly commended in the competition. I was very chuffed, as I’m quite new to writing (despite being a slightly over the hill, weary teacher).

    Really looking forward to reading more of your poems.

    Catherine

  5. I think I got the tone of “If We Could Speak Like Wolves”, and it I think it may have put me off relationships for life haha. I don’t mean that in a hostile way at all, and I don’t know your biography, it’s just a little frightening.

  6. Pingback: Poetry blog: Top tips for writing a winning poem – by our judge

  7. I’ve just read your poem “The Art of Falling” and I feel like I am falling into it. Powerful, sad mastery of language. Sad but devastating and beautiful too. Thank you so much for your words. Inspiring!

  8. I’m here because of an article in today’s Guardian – I fell in love with the washing sulking in corners – and I’m very happy I found this page.
    I read everything here much too greedily and will return to enjoy the poems more slowly. For today my motto will be, If we could know by smell what we are born to.

    • Dear Jan – thank you so much for your message. I really appreciate it and am glad you find your way here! I’ve actually read in Holland quite a few times in the last two years – last year I read at a festival in Groningen, so maybe we will bump into each other in real life! Your pamphlet will be in the post tomorrow – sorry for the slight delay.

      • Who knows, yes. I suppose you’ll let your readers know when you will do another reading in Holland (or anywhere else)? No hurries with the pamphlet. Thanks for your reply.

      • Sorry just realised that post made it sound like I think Holland is a small place whereit is possible to randomly bump into people! I blame tiredness. Although poetry world is small it is maybe not that small. Anyway apologies again

  9. Don’t worry. It is a small place. Pretty crowded though. Anyway, 1.30 in Windmill Central and I’m quickly running out of brain cells myself. Just finished the first draft of another short story chapter and the last ten minutes wasn’t so much writing as channelling the dead Keats: trying to form then and stick letters to water. I’m off to bed!

  10. Hi Kim, the book arrived. Thank you. I’ll save it for later in the day – post work treat.

    (I just checked: you will end up between Czeslaw Milosz & Andrew Motion.)

  11. Pingback: The Lady of Shalott is alive and kicking in Whitley Bay - Happy Planet

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