Helen Kay lives near Crewe. Her poems have been accepted by various magazines including: Stand, Rialto, Interpreter’s House and Orbis. She was runner-up in the High Sheriff’s Prize for Literature (2016) and shortlisted for the 2017 Paper Swans pamphlet prize. Her debut pamphlet, A Poultry Lover’s GuideTo Poetry, was published in 2015 by Indigo Dreams.
A rose acetate
stills the hive’s sticky frenzy.
Honey words lick me.
The Science Gallery entertained
the screeching moons of rosy mums
and stubble dads in Sunday jeans,
half -watching weights and waterwheels.
Only he fixed on one exhibit,
(the same one every visit) that tested
reflex actions: When the red
light flashes, hit the button.
Ice -cream could not draw him from
beating milliseconds. This boy
without a plan, whacked the winking
bulb with a flat palm and life began.
Let it rain all day, he joked.
He hated swimming pools and bikes
The slippery park made it clear
he never would be Yaya Toure.
Two pimpled red bats, two dented
white balls. A green mesh, slouched
across the gate leg table that now
outgrew the scuffed lounge.
Sulky mistakes soon left the ball
on its loom of air that wove his hand
to its arc, his heart to a pulsing tap,
his brain to the curve of its skull.
Wearing green headbands, the tables
in the church hall lifted their wooden
wings and men of many tongues and
tastes danced, firecracker bright.
A sole Olympian from Vanuatu,
came to London via Crewe,
gave them spins and splices.
He dreamed her every word.
The sweat of serve and volley
retracked the eye’s saccade,
the wrist’s flick, the brain’s wire.
The game had become his skin.
Willows mop the stained water,
weird bag-lady, hula girls,
the river’s Pandora charms
in flecked jumpers, but beneath
a 4 ply fringe, they hold space,
hollow as empty promises
to make cement worlds green.
The trees crochet a curtain
Ripped by a slasher wind.
When the artful sand slopes off
they have something to mourn,
but their roots grip the bank.
The willows’ fingers stretch
to strangle the pulsing waves
while new silt binds their feet.
Blame slid off the beetle-black
mourners when the vicar carved her out
as bewitched by barfly lefties.
She had blue eyes and when you chatted
she made you feel you really mattered.
Her bruised skin often matched her eyes.
She had played violin at Sunday School,
kept it clean in a case as she was taught.
She jigged when her daughter stitched a tune.
Her lungs were drowned by her own blood
when the veins burst open their banks.
No room for alkies in the Ark.
At the wake her parents held hands.
Back home the sherry looked untouched,
but a smell of Strong Mints lingered.