Extract From 'Above The Mealy-Mouthed Sea'

Thunder. Like the sky is rubbing its hands on its thighs.
We’re snug in the bud of the jungle, other side of the world and sticky-hot.
The sun always sets at half past six and the grown-ups get drunk.
They decide the next day’s itinerary and I am made to follow.
I remember nodding off under the clunk of the the ceiling fan,
The thin pages of the paperback collapsed on my sticky cheek.
I always feel like I’m a princess asleep beneath the peach mosquito net.

You have fallen in love, you say, with the most beautiful woman you’ve known.
I’ve never known you to have a girlfriend before so I’m not sure
how many you have known. She’s pretty though,
but lives on this other side of the world
and I don’t think she’d follow you home.
I remember how you gave her moonstone jewelry.
I remember how she blushed as she took it.
I stumbled, hit by a 10 foot wave, I can only now articulate it.

I like how some of the other kids can kill fish by throwing sharpened coat-hangers
into precise spots in the sea.
I watched one little girl stuffing handfuls of worms into her grin and chewing.

One night a pig was being slaughtered at 4 in the morning and screaming like a human,
then was hauled onto a spit to rotate like an idiot above the mean old fire.

After promising not to eat any of it, I was lured in like a fish
by the brown skin crackling, by the rich-pig, hog-roast smell
like home’s roast dinners and what I wouldn’t give for a Yorkshire pudding.

I know nothing about love, I have just turned twelve.
But I remember I could see your blue eyes smack of it,
of love unrequited like in the teenage fiction I was reading,
you can’t turn more than two pages of your new sci-fi hardback book in one sitting.

It got too much for me, a bit too much for me and I cried sometimes.

Jemima Foxtrot

Jemima Foxtrot will read at Wordlife on Thursday 22 February at DINA. Tickets £6/£4 on the door.

When You Realise

It was in our eyes,
in the recoil of that Spring,
making promises written on blotting paper pages,
in the traction of the April rain.

It was in the garden,
at the end of that sated summer,
sinking heels into lazy lawns,
spilling wine onto uncut grass.

It was in the kitchen,
while leaves were jumping to their deaths,
that we made hot drinks in oversized mugs,
taking turns to turn the thermostat.

It was by the fireplace,
in the colourless corollary of Winter,
drinking whisky and eating chocolates
before climbing the stairs too soon.

Matt Nicholson

Some Relief

Relief as the sunset’s small reprieve; relief as the look on
the found boy’s sorry face; relief in pissing in the woods
on a freezing winter hike; relief as belch or burp; relief as
the train doors still open; relief when slowly sinking into
the bath’s warm curve; relief in a filing cupboard; relief
waking to the panic of Monday morning moments before
the dawning revelation of Sunday; relief as laughter in
the company of strangers; relief as laughter at one’s own
absurdity; relief in the dog’s eyes, thundering downstairs
to find you home from the shops; relief as waived cost;
relief as light strained through the bars of a prison cell,
your prison cell, on the day of release; relief in a kindly
face; relief in an act of kindness, given or received, amid
the city’s faceless stream; relief at the kind of day that
makes the rest of this life worthwhile; relief in coming
down; relief in standing on the fell after rainfall, looking
down at the town, the houses, your house, smaller than
you imagined, everything somehow more manageable
for now.

Ben Wilkinson



Every January we’re surprised again
by the way, finally, it gets lighter
in the mornings, the year turning in its sleep.

We’ll leave work one afternoon and feel
ambushed by the novelty of daylight,
a dull ache, a happiness we’d forgotten.

A film’s flickering into life after months
buffering. There’s a sense of something shifting
into gear: we’re headed for the sun.

Joe Caldwell