— From Home
It’s not personal
……………………………for Ellie Butler & her sister
Born not into this world, but entangled,
impact hardest hit on landing – and he knew
she knew she was a punching bag because her mother
had before her, and her sister, and there were the exes
before that, now strewing tears on daytime television,
and the public stranglings and the pregnant girlfriend
and the retinal haemorrhages and the burns on her fingers
and her forehead (at 5 weeks) and the little broken arm
and exoneration from the judge and incredulity from everyone.
Trouble is she had no say because she was only five years old.
And although several key professionals engaged purposefully,
directly, there is a general lack of focus on the child
or on her sister as individuals and their wishes,
feelings and characters do not feature strongly
because she was only five years old – the other even younger –
inchoate human beings that never really counted,
among the stinging branches and the scalding currents,
the expert testimonies and the legal wranglings. And we know,
have heard it said, how important it is for kids
to be with their parents: that special bond, those precious rights,
the swirling currents – impact of which will be referred to later.
Because now the child is dead; she had her head bashed in.
All narrative and professional attention is paid
[following a state apology] to the say-so of her [grown-up] parents.
The child – she knew and begged not to be taken
back to ‘the bad house’ – has come and gone.
Brief promise of a human being petrified
in tears who stumbled, briefly, into the dark fray
of familial love that spins about the centre of this world /
stamps its expert seal on everything and knows,
she knew, we all know how it happened, how it never should,
and how it will again.
— From Room on Fire
All we have are metonyms
I won’t set this poem
in some pastoral beauty
despite flashy Autumn
crowing out its colours
each one a place-holder
because all we have left
having seen too much
of only the beginning
then skip forward
to a natural entropy
our shaking hands parting
fine by both, agreed by longed for
the security of home
that simple smiling sentence
of the bridge, that utter flood
& other complexities
like this for instance
when we cut out all the things
that speak us wrongly. Do what
ever with the rest. When
we don’t cut out all the things
what may we ask is left
Revelation in disguise (rewriting John Ashbery)
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>for Amy Cutler and Sophie Seita
Yes they are alive and not like triangles
And I, in my soul, am alive too.
I feel I must shout and write, to tell
Of this in a way, that knowing you may be drawn from me.
And I do amid the noise of casual isolation,
Machinery of history, the chance to sing of us
Superseded by you, is you.
You hold me up to the light in a way
I would always have expected, and yet still am surprised, perhaps
Because you always tell me the idea supersedes us, perhaps
You are right. Yet the great spaces loom.
Between our kind. I am ever yours to be forfeited, to desire.
I cannot ever think of me. If I begin
I am back in a room in which the chairs ever
Have their backs toward me,
Pelted by words, actual light
That laughs off suggestion, goes on producing Art
Under a general wing, same wild light of the day
That is always true. I pledge me to an idea
I was assigned by birth, which I cannot ever stop remembering.
Remembering to remember. Remember to pass beyond you into the us
In the winged shadow, the space you will never know.
Taking me from myself, in the path
Which the blind birth of the day has consigned me to.
I prefer ‘us’ in the plural, I want ‘us’.
You should go from me, all victorious and whole
Like the light and the day.
And then I start getting this feeling of exhaustion.
In the family box there was
In the family box there was
No Xmas card there was
No Xmas card
In the family box. In the care
Box in the heart of cares
Where Xxxxxs should have been
Where missing past the care
Of all those past pasts.
In the family. Wound-care
Wound round care-heart
Marked by not one X, not
Even too, no
Heart of hearts not
Pettily or past but all those
Cares of cares. That
Pretty wound box
In the Xmas heart. So full
Of care & other thoughts –
Fully. Not one crime
Of passion or omission, only
Wound salt, very carefully
& wrapped with careful
Thought, but without
Care & only much
Point but without heart-
Felt. Only much past
Only much pain
I’m walking away from you now and I can’t
The arms that want to hold this moment
…….but they are too of stone, & you
…….are stationed underground /
without a sign
………….(& I’m scared that you do not love me
………….& I’m scared that you love me;
………….I’m scared that I do not love you
………….& I’m scared that I love you)
Love, that just the most petrifying of things
…….since having a baby
…….since excuse me but where are you from?
…….Since I don’t speak German, could you say that in feeling?
Since a great Exterminating Angel took me
…….by your arms
………….shook us down with peanut crumbs
……………….declared itself our effigy.
Emily Critchley‘s poetry collections have been published by Boiler House, Barque, Intercapillary, Corrupt, Holdfire, Torque, Oystercatcher, Dusie, Bad and Arehouse presses. A 2011 selected writing, Love / All That / & OK (US), was published by Penned in the Margins; her most recent collection, Ten Thousand Things, was published by Boiler House Press in 2017. She is also editor of Out of Everywhere 2: Linguistically Innovative Poetry by Women in North America & the UK (Reality Street, 2016)(US) and a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich, London. She has publications forthcoming from Shearsman and Crater presses.
Note—Minor edits were made to this page subsequent to publication to correct editing and production errors. —Ed.