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Four prose poems.

By Olivia Tuck.

Marker’s Comments: 1

First thoughts upon reading portfolio draft: the work is interesting | if typical of a younger woman with your | ahem | anyway | fairly confident in voice | a nice turn of phrase | a focus | a sense of effort | excuse my candour | but it’s clear you don’t do much else with your time | I suppose my question is: what is this supposed to be? | a queer love story? | you’re trying for the Sappho thing, yes? | and then there’s the neurodivergent aspect | that’s very in just now | cup your left hand | squeeze a grapefruit with your right | feel the taut need to catch every drop of the bitter juice | I suggest you redraft | this time, spool the river to its source | and give us hot sleet | give us the sun passing before the moon | but not blotting it out, not like that | and let our friend Clover speak | give us lace | slate | molars punched out of a skull | I’m lurching between images like a doomed aircraft | anyway | from the top, please | on the whistle | on the | on—

Marker’s Comments: 2

Well, spring came for you, didn’t it | it’s uncanny | I printed out your manuscript | and the reek of the blossom on my hands | I put it down | diced the onions for supper | and tasted its sweetness hours later in the casserole | this is not a compliment | the work is somewhat discordant | but today, as I was digging my allotment, I thought of your words and realised you knew | that love and practice are tines of the same pitchfork | spearing the same blood-enriched earth | Clover seems to be far more than you can weather | it sounds as if you lie down to sleep | having failed to swill her taste | the coagulated strawberry jam of her | from your uvula | Clover | lover | Clover | lover | please know I am not here | to attend to your unattended longings

Marker’s Comments: 3

Latest thoughts on portfolio draft: I see petals and stamens | of a narcissus craving a reflection | from an algae-flooded lake | and, in these poems, who is the flower and who is the water? | that’s quite the riddle | whichever the case, it hurts to look at them both | this still stretch of eye irrevocably clouded | this symbol of March and self-absorption flaccid | but, in the words of Don Paterson | none of this, none of this matters | forget the narcissus | forget the lake | and forget the two roads | that’s only poetry | I think what you and I mean by all we’ve discussed | is one mountain spring diverged | from itself in a yellow wood | and now plans to spend eternity | fruitlessly trying to merge | back into what it once knew it should be | and this is the source | the source of all of this

Clover’s Almost-Ex

Apparently he’s a pianist, trained at the Royal Academy of Music. Apparently he’s got hands like Rachmaninov’s. Apparently he’s a lark and she’s a night owl. Apparently that’s fine, because he’s an Aries and she’s a Leo. Apparently they quit smoking for each other, then started again over limoncello in Venice. Apparently he’s got a thing about fucking on balconies. Apparently they hold seances and were once contacted by Charlotte Mew’s ghost. Apparently he calls her his Lady Luck, his emerald, says four leaves = four chambers of the heart. Apparently she went backpacking without him and cheated with three lifeguards at once in Cairns. Apparently she cheated in Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City as well. Apparently he threw her MacBook Pro off the roof when she told him. Apparently he cheated with his conductor, a flautist, and a harpist. Apparently she said this sounded like a joke — and swore she’d set fire to his Steinway — when he told her. Apparently love is the wrong word for what’s between them. Apparently there isn’t a right word and love is another capitalist lie. Apparently she never intends for us to eat with his picture watching us, but it’s always there. Apparently I shouldn’t post pictures of her and me on Insta. Apparently it’s strange I’m so on edge about it. Apparently it’s later than she thought and I should go now. Apparently she did kiss the top of my head just now, but I didn’t feel her touch it. Apparently I’m shaking. Apparently there are tears sparking up my eyes.


OLIVIA TUCK’s work has been published by the Poetry Society and Broken Sleep, and in several print and online journals. She is an intern at Tears in the Fence and an associate poetry editor at Lighthouse, and recently completed UEA’s MA Creative Writing — Poetry course with Distinction. Olivia was longlisted for the 2022 Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize. Her pamphlet Things Only Borderlines Know is out now with Black Rabbit Press. All four poems published above are from Mistresses of Arts, a currently unpublished pamphlet. Set within the context of a Masters course in writing poetry, Mistresses of Arts is both an ode to and a criticism of stereotypical ideas about poets, as well as ‘the poetry scene’ and academia itself. The Marker is one of three voices which are in dialogue.

Image credit: IlonaReny.

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Frank McMahon
Frank McMahon
1 month ago

I love the wicked parodies of the marker…what planet are they on? and the work itself is a whirl of images and scenes and possibilities held together by Apparently…This is a glorious word fest from start to finish.

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