For Chris

Open the window wide 

he will not fly back,

his shoes stand by the door still  

now five months have past, 

and I remember him two years old

distracted by a leaf at the foot of a slide.

And if you lived in Greece 

they might dress you up in purple

but here you are no one at all, 

no longer discussing silver sand  

with those Cambridge mothers.

Take down the mobile.

Find the men: the car 

in the middle of the road again,

the hunt for lost fragments, policemen, 

all fathers, retrieving a past. 

Yet Matthew is everywhere, 

a speck on the sand, 

arched young back, 

sea in his sights.

pictures and words and things….

hidden in books, 

the primitive crayon drawing

behind magnets on fridges,

tiny growths hidden beneath the wallpaper —

for Mummy love Matthew for 

Mummy love….


I know they are all concerned about me

but why waste a plaster if my leg is bleeding?

Everything is fine. This lovely daughter

will be good and wear her little white socks. 

This loving family always sits up nicely. 

We discuss together at meals. We have fun.

We share our problems and are polite 

because…because…we love each other.   

The crumbs in the toaster prove that I have eaten

but someone keeps putting someone else’s clothes 

in my wardrobe. My smile is a slice of watermelon. 

I will be good. Good. Though all my fingertips are freezing.

What is happening to my blood? They said 

one day your body will start to digest itself. 

No need to turn my mirrors to the wall 

for soon I will reflect nothing.  

I love everyone. Watch me. 

Watch in the marketplace 

as they prepare to stone me. 

See me slip between the cracks 

in the pavement. Each night my mother 

goes to see a friend: his face a ghastly shadow

against the glass. See how my body swells,

climbs above the trees. Grotesque skyscraper. 

They tell me anything but this is what I know: 

from below I am the Himalayas from above 

the Potomac winding to infinity.

This black hole will never touch bottom:

Cloud in a tent–whaleback against the sky  

I don’t need the crumbs from the table, 

I can grow from fresh air.  I pluck at the grass:

He loves me not not not.


                                                                For Liz

Leeds. Frost and autumn leaves in the streets. 

Grime beneath the fingernails, 

in that circular library where 

infatuation shared a shelf with science, 

formulae and memorising.

We had never been this far north before.

(Remember those pretty sweets to keep us safe,

three older men in a bachelor flat?)

There in peaked cap, a poser…

perhaps…the only one to die for.

Bookends played: ‘A time of innocence 

a time of confidences…’ Careless letters 

let slip ‘Dear Ken…love Kay,’ me

in his room, a little drunk (he tugs

at my skirt), I catch in the mirror 

my father’s dulled eyelids…these

were pearls that were his eyes,…while the

Paternoster goes round and round, 

all now transformed to something rich

and strange – a life forever frozen.

3 poems by Belinda Cooke

Belinda Cooke’s translations include Kulager by Ilias Jansugurov (Kazakh N.T. A., 2018); Forms of Exile: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (The High Window Press, 2019); (et al) Contemporary Kazakh Poetry (C.U.P, 2019). Her own poetry includes Stem (the High Window Press, 2019) and her Days of the Shorthanded Shovelists forthcoming (Salmon Poetry).



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