Weekend Poetry: Lineage, and other poems

Lineage

We decided to have the abortion, became

killers together.

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

 

 

Winter coat

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 BooksPoetry LondonPoetry Review and many other places. A pamphlet, Glass As Broken Glass, was published by Rack Press in 2017.

 

 

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