New Poetry, Fiction, Essay

5 poems by Kitty Coles

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Kitty’s poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She was one of the two winners of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. www.kittyrcoles.com








How can she be sleeping,
here among the hordes,
who surge past her
like sea around a rock,
their shoes brushing her sides,
their tongues astir,
cramming the air with clatter,
looming and moving wave-like over her?

And the air is cold,
bitingly cold, white and hard,
turning the breath to plumes.
And the ground, too, must be cold,
and gleams dankly,
seeping its vapours
through her small, still, body.
And, though the sky is grey
with a sullen wet,
it’s light enough, still, to drip
through closed eyelids,
keeping the mind unquiet.

So is she, after all, not sleeping
but holding her body closed,
shutting herself, shell-like, around herself,
shutting her eyelids
like a sea anemone draws
itself closed, pulling its fronds in close
to keep its centre
from the shifting water,
the grit it bears,
the press of questing fingers?






Some birds pass regularly, here, and now
we hardly register the sight of them,
the patterns of their flight, their cries and calls.

The melancholy geese are of this order.
We don’t remark their visit every autumn,
their deep, nostalgic croaks, their mushroom colours.

So, too, the dirty and tumultuous crows,
the shrieking gulls – the soul-birds – pale, phantasmal,
and ducks, companionable, their burnished breasts.

Today, for the first time, a heron came,
in one quick glide, over the lawn and off
and we observed his vagrant raggedness,

his gaunt grey body scoring the grey sky.
He kept his silence, though we later listened
to a recording of his abrupt bark.

Omens were read, once, in such happenings.
Birds broadcast divine messages to nations.
Their language is forgotten; we have lost
the art of the translator and are dumb.






She shapes herself from the bonfires of November.
She lifts herself above the houses and hangs there.

She winds around the chimney pots, cat-like,
aspiring greyly towards an afterlife.

Wind carries her and she descends on our gardens.
She smells of endings, papery and acrid.

She scatters herself across the hanging washing
and filthies it and flies down to the lawns.

You smoke and send her up again in fragments.
She travels up and down. Her loop continues.






They have a knack of thriving anywhere.
They’re not chameleons, who modify
themelves to match places they disembark in.
Rather, they force a foxy alchemy
on any situation they arrive at.

A case in point: they favour fusty beds,
unlaundered sheets and skin that’s sour with sleeping
as nest material, but need not seek this:
reaching an unsoiled home, an active body,
they’ll hover pertly by the owner’s ear,
murmur entreaties of such sly seduction
that, in a week or two, their quarry changes
her ways, stops rising in the morning,
and lies with curtains drawn, windows sealed shut.

Likewise, tears nourish them but, if they creep
into a heart where tears are rarely grown,
they sow their seed and soon, like dragon’s teeth,
tears spring from the barren soil for them to gorge on.

Once they’re established, then their hapless host
will start to miss them when they fall asleep,
feel strange without their always-griping claws.
Then she will pamper them, to keep them close,
bringing them dishes of salt blood to lap
and peeling back her ribs to let them gather,
like bats roosting and mewing, at the heart.





What bliss, to be as empty as a doll,
a carapace of smoothness and white chill,
ageless and senseless, never sick or sore.

And underneath just – nothing –
except space, a little air, pale halls
of vacancy:

no organs failing, no blood to turn bad,
no tongue to flap out sin,
no heart to crash and, crashing, hurt the rest,
no coils of sticky brain
to churn out thoughts, rotate the grubby
cogs of memory.

If someone took a hammer, smashed that flesh,
the shards would stay indifferent, speechless.




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