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‘Hurt Detail’ and two more prose poems.

By LYDIA UNSWORTH

Hurt Detail

HOWEVER MUCH I chew the bolus it remains too wide for the throat along which it must traverse. I swallow myself to sleep―on trains, in soon-to-be-demolished houses by the sides of rails. I raise my arm at the steamy driver, her eyes and the things we train them to deter. They say a foolish death is a happy one, that she who looks both ways has an excess of empty time. A desire for progress stretches for miles. An electricity pylon falls on its side and narrows to the tip of a grassy recline. Hidden tracks, unused notepads thinner than you remember. The view from the platform is interrupted by the blameless beeps of incoming emails. Only after they had hauled him into the back of the van, did he put down his magazine; hair tied back like a face in the wind. Stillness after motion is a bag left leaning against an unoccupied bench in a station concourse. The panorama whirls, the arms of passengers are fixed mid-transaction, caught. A patisserie’s aroma goes on, unpaused. Down by the sleepers, I let stones roll into the narrow ditch surrounding the connected metal tissues. Gums peel away from teeth. Stripping my clothes off, I waggle whatever loose skin I can gather at the passing haul.

Specific Ways I Will Apologise to My Children

FOR EXAMPLE, I’LL leave a note on the stairs outside their wobbling apartment next to a small piece of dropped plastic where they’re bound to notice as they bound away. Huge arrow pointing to the end of the world. Or I’ll write it in fridge poetry using only the leftover and available words: Honestly Nothing Memories Love Saw What Honestly Nothing Flood I Okay Talk Tremble. Or I’ll send them an office email. Thanks for reaching out, but I don’t have the capacity to raise you today. You pose some great questions, and I’ll follow this up as soon as my workload abates. Or I’ll run a marathon in their name. Or I’ll clip a lock around a bridge rail and toss the key into the river into the sea onto the seabed because what difference does it make? Or I’ll fly to them wherever they are and say it to their face before I take a slapdash tour through their new world and fly straight back again. Or I’ll bake them a cake, homemade, throwing all the harmless packaging away. Or I’ll buy them high-street clothes they can call their own, for all their generic bodyshapes. Or I’ll tell them a story, as long as I am old, of everything I was ever told or have thought and not known how to say, and I’ll hope they’ll listen to some of the tones, hope the sonar won’t drown me out, hope that the songs of lives cut into and hung above our own can still drip a little onto such full plates.

Clean White Rectangles
After Middlefield by Ian Waites

IF IT’S RAINING heavily here, I take the tram. In my previous life, this simply wasn’t an option. The buses there all tended centrally and were flung radially out; a spider web missing integral components. Wavering lines that can take no weight. Inadequate infrastructure. I miss the smile of a damp cyclist in the rain. The solidarity of matching streams of water flooding the nose slope. In my previous life, I sat in the office one time sporting nothing but a makeshift toga, of paisley design, hoping to avoid any kind of professional face-to-face contact until my clothes had dried from the sudden downpour.


Lydia Unsworth has published two collections of poetry: Certain Manoeuvres (KFS Press, 2018) and Nostalgia for Bodies (2018 Erbacce Poetry Prize), and two pamphlets. Her latest pamphlet Yield is now available from KFS and her debut novel Distant Hills was published in June 2020 by Atlatl Press. Recent work can be found in Ambit, SPAM, Bath Magg, Blackbox Manifold, and The Interpreter’s House. Twitter: @lydiowanie

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