3 poems by Gill Lambert


At twelve, she makes a home.

They give her salt, for flavour,

and she remembers its importance;

a simple version of ‘King Lear’, Cordelia,

who told her father, not nothing,

but that she loved him more than salt.

Red is lifted from white, with half a cup.

Her sterile shame, a line of pale pink gussets,

lost-tooth wound, made clean 

with just one mouthful. In her garden 

slugs dissolve, unwanted. Dead. 

The Devil’s on her left; she does not fear him,

though she throws spilled salt over her shoulder,

whispers it, like prayer, into cooking water. 

She remembers again, Cordelia – her nothing

but how she loved her father.

How her father loved her,

gave her away, like salt.


When they are toe-poked, 

                           arm-spurt sleeves too short.

Hemless, cotton-snagged,


spun-shrunk, felted

into mat. When they are washed-grey,

darned-tight, yarn-pilled. Stitched-through 


                                   Handed back, pulled-out, passed on.

When she is treadle-numb, needle-sore. 

                       Eye-bleared from tiny pattern words,

long-awake fixing into school-good. 

            Tangled, cut-down, 




for Our Eileen

No one hand washes these days, 

no piles of nylons, drip-dry silk. 

She did, even after twin-tubs,

newly-knitted jumpers 

plunged into the sink,

rolled through mangles, squeezed 

of all their moisture, hung up 

on airers, pegged out in the yard.

Before instruction labels, 

she knew what should be done,

then like other things, she passed it on.

Like drying between your toes, 

hot water bottles, hankies.

Making each child feel they were

the most important.

How to raise six children on a pittance, 

feed them, with nothing,

clothe them with self-taught talent,

bled down through her daughters.

How to stay strong, well made,

even when you end up fragile, delicate.

About the contributor

Gill Lambert is a poet and teacher from West Yorkshire. Her pamphlet Uninvited Guests was published by Indigo Dreams in 2017 and her first collection Tadaima was published by Yaffle, last year.

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