Weekend Poetry: Lineage, and other poems
We decided to have the abortion, became
Sharon Olds, ‘The End’
With two fingers
we two conspired to cut the cord
and truncate the female line
at the cusp of its near-execution.
How can I write about what I can’t remember?
The lights are down in that dark theatre.
I imagine that we met in shady corners of the house
like mobsters, away from the males.
It was a matter of survival.
She must have seen approaching the fatal fear
that took my equilibrium for years,
and claimed it her duty.
We didn’t know yet how we would do it,
by exile, by knife, by blood, by money.
Always, my part of the bargain was to forget,
that she would, as the mother,
bear the remembering in my place.
Still Life with Rotted Tooth
In the thick glazed bowl, red apples
perch in an ambassadorial pyramid
a napkin of sunlight is unfolded
on the wooden table
and there is a small secret gleam of silver
on the handle of the knife
that cut the apple into thick quarters
each with a bright rind of skin
around the pale flesh. Three quarters
stop untouched at timepiece angles
on a green ceramic plate, next to a splayed book
pages folded in some discomfort. To the fore
the tooth lies like a letter-opener, just-used
its taproot pointing to the window
its blackened face a fly-hole
and inside the tooth
the maggot of a fly
I am standing up there in front of everyone
trying to contort myself into the right shape
but one by one they are picking up their coats
and shaking their heads, disappointed,
making their way out sideways along the line.
I am wearing clothes inappropriately young.
I haven’t thoroughly washed my face
and there are traces of the recent past all over it.
A brother sits on the edge of his attic bed
quite still, and learns and then
unlearns in the same breath.
I am completely wrongshaped.
The frustration of me. My love’s hands are blistered.
Once, to my satisfaction, I walked out
in the interval of an interminable play.
I crawl past myself in the livery of a corrupt police car
winding the window down and leaning out
to look right at the meat of my bare thighs.
If only I had a warm winter coat
that I could cover myself up with,
that I could pick up and put on
and then walk out in total disgust.
- Martha Sprackland is editor at Offord Road Books, and at multilingual arts zine La Errante. She was previously assistant poetry editor at Faber, and co-founder of Cake magazine. Her poetry has appeared in London Review of Books, Poetry London, Poetry Review and many other places. A pamphlet, Glass As Broken Glass, was published by Rack Press in 2017.
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