Issue 30: Andrea Brady

Woodberry Down

Finally found the sky: magnificent whatever

you’re doing, disregarding time, flaking off

into water filtration castles. Herald’s blue,

heron grey, dirty white, bunching up

into bell sleeves, peasant sleeves, caps,

batwings, lanterns, leg-of-mutton

goes cloud building space that earth

aspirated not against a backdrop

as in paintings of virgins and farm animals

but a dome, a great living dome

too hot too hot retaining

the warmth of the summer burning

down the compost back into the earth,

the buddleia smells like roast pork,

until the sky can be reconceptualised as a shell

it offers itself selectively to open eyes


and sinks into the new river’s green

chemical surface. Excoriates the reservoir

until it rhymes: blue-black, mercurial, wind

less a mute mirror a CD in the silt bed,

styrofoam hamburger case, wrapper

Tuc biscuits, plastic bags slice

of holla bread floating in the reeds.

Glory days. Bindweed chokes everything,

the currents of air. We counted

eight footballs, a flattened

can of Red Stripe, cardboard backing

from a battery pack. A door. That

was the autumn I noticed


my body gradually tightening, every time

I attended to it, coiling tighter,

like a screw pulling on a wire: I breathed then

and named each part to calm it, worried

the skin on my face was starting to seize

up or stop, stone angel who’d soon

be chipped into judgment forever

looking at the world through carved lines:

attended again to the screw, the wire

and calmed it, named it, put my eyes

on a lightbox lamenting dead queens. Pay


attention to the single object in the box,

world gathering mournfully around it,

and to the drop in nutrients as CO2

speeds up growth cycles. I worried the line

was cut with a knife, and so practiced

making my eyes above my mask

twinkle at trainee doctors, nurse

with her rolling pin flattening my breast tissue,

children and students, the man I bought

chocolate and coffee from, waning delights

of the losable earth. I went out

and the sky was not falling, it was a thing

that held.





Last Resort


They come home from painting

sets for Sister Act, making cable cars

out of string and cardboard, playing table tennis

with windproof balls, and ask their questions:


What if gravity were suddenly turned

so all these buildings

stood on their side? What if you could

exchange any thing for any

other thing? What if every light in the city

suddenly went off? Would you rather

be stuck in a door, or be a pen?

I’m annoyed by the energy

it takes to imagine a new frame,

a new relation to the ground under our feet,

I’m tired, they are still busy, what if

you could have any power, what would it be,

if you could put my brain in his body,

would you? Would you save 100 species

of bird, or our one cat? What if you could

save only one of us? Would you

press a button to kill an unknown

person on the other side of the world for

a thousand pounds? A million? What if

you had to choose between killing

a family of five and all of us being killed?

Would you kill one person for world peace,

the end of hunger and unlimited happiness?


In these obscene logics the fantasy

of restoration to fullness through death repeats,

but what if there was enough food only

for this family, in nuclear winter, would you

take it though it meant another family

would starve? Of course. Look

how the world answers.





The Abandoned Village


In the celestial city models

of kinship create shapes on hills

ringed by tarmac a mysterious river

in flood our treasure in summer receding

to reveal sunken warships or earthly cities


and olive groves where gods were born,

ate socially, walked together to the co-operative.

We navigate the tops imitating

the first poets to climb Ventoux,

read books, doubt ourselves, make friends with an animal

with hair like mine and knowledge

of place as scent or lingering


wells deep and brackish for thirsts our

inverts long past moved to Sweden, Australia

died in bed or gallows, a dry

chronicle of the century in holiday walls.


There is heat then light and enough to walk by

vines guarded by tripwire by low animal voltage

but we eat freely. Green and purple

fruit we haven’t captured drops heavy

spreading its sugars for bees who eternally

return. In the night whose stars are less obvious

than advertised the calls of owls and chainsaws

remind us of business the sleeper

searches it up talking to his sister

about cyan warriors, about pink


It’s easy to be drawn

in by the lucidity of symbolic logic

as the guilty apostle sneaks over the garden wall

in an old painting; the colours still teaching

illiterate visitors a story of charity,

hospitality, equalities of the dead

and a spire of no denomination holds up

the historical sky.


Could we live here, in the celestial

the real city whose roots are at whatever cardinal centre

those stories affirm, drinking spirits of juniper

from the communal plastic beaker,

holding up


the stars the children were promised

if they found number twelve in a goblin lantern

and weren’t flattened by dirt bikes

whose riders are stranger gods just passing through,

just passing a casual test of our hospitality.


So long as we keep asking what we have

each other and the tree

keeps thrusting its fruit into our hands,

our mouths, jasper hearts

whose seeds crack into song

traded mouth for mouth to seething

abundance with fantasy, death with life





Close Your Eyes


What rages in the trees cannot be far away

like an internalised hammer keeping time

from breaking free


I get sun in my eyes on an ill slant

pumping myself full of positive thoughts

and vitamins as shields against doubt


I can’t, can’t can’t, thumping in my head

tapping the side of my fist, my collarbone,

my udders pumped full of sucrose and glitter


looking for the last letters sent by the stars

and holding hands to scuff leaves

dripping their paint into the break of day.


So take in the fumes of petrol

bombing and chalk the stagnant pools

of buses on high streets


empty and idling, look out

look up at the baroque melodrama

flicking coloured switches overhead


and believe there is somewhere

in the clouds where we are together and free:

the dawn, a commons, balm


at least you can still sleep, I say,

at least you stroke the damp forehead

warm with fever and sing


for the six thousandth time: you can

close your eyes, I can

sing this song, saving it for you,


you can have it, when I’m gone





Merched Becca


Lost in the old oak pasture

get your bearings by the syringe

of the radio tower, count to 40 then start looking

distracted by the hammer in your own ears

and the moon’s mindless zero

casts shadows of your partner on paving stones

sky that breathes with equal indifference

as you strip from the waist down in heather

securing a late and highly intentional fuck

as collateral against death who’s

making it anymore in this

country where they security

tag blocks of butter, the girls

wear enormous trousers as the only charm

against contraction anyone can still afford:

pint of beer for a tenner, nothing burger, running

out of hiding places you can just about squeeze

into you’re glad to be found

early. Watching the arraignment in real time

masses of clowns emerge in full paint

a dinky Arthur rises out of the little stone circle

someone up the valley imitates a donkey

someone female calls out in a voice that isn’t mine

‘watch out don’t scratch the car’ a starch

collar tory with a sour face and locked

door inhibits this property owns the view

refuses helpfulness to people in little boats

‘read the sign on the gate’ she is calling the police

am I following the track of a man or an animal

delivery driver pulls up next to the bard’s ashes

he isn’t trying to get anyone

pregnant in the nineteenth century

when Big Becca led a riot against tolls

the bard found Christ eavesdropping

on an old widow and communism

everywhere else

Andrea Brady is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently The Blue Split Compartments (Wesleyan 2021) and Desiring Machines (Boiler House 2021). Her second critical monograph Poetry and Bondage: A History and Theory of Lyric Constraint was published by Cambridge in 2021; Radical Tenderness is forthcoming in 2024. She is Professor of Poetry at Queen Mary University of London.

Copyright © 2023 by Andrea Brady, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author