Blackbox Manifold

Issue 12: Stuart Pickford


 a young couple step into the shower,

grandma texts lol, painted ladies

swarm from Morocco, light polishes

the grain of an oak table, a fox

strolls across the fifteenth green

bold as brass.

                   A TV aerial

points in the opposite direction, a man

marvels how good she looks in that dress,

a house sparrow with a sprig of grass,

pupils wonder if stone is a noun,

someone says, If we were all naked,

we’d put on less weight.  

                                        Clouds conspire

against the sky, a walnut tree,

a woman just wants to go to sleep,

Sourmilk Gill pours out of Easedale,

a prison inmate’s painting of a cottage

with an S of smoke.

                                 Mosquitoes settle

in brambles, the delete key on Facebook,

a father by the window in The Cedars, a wife

turns her back on her husband in bed,

journalists pen another adverb.


and fences, smeared mascara, ants

with a wasp, the Orissa tribes protest

at Vedanta’s mine, the office party’s


             A fatality in Helmand Province,

curlews over their smashed eggs,

the radio’s static, cleaners silent

on the last bus, a lost wedding


         24—7, party, back, sleep,

dress, shower—the, an, a—and on

and on and on, on on on—a man,

his heart a bird fallen from its nest.

To my Wife’s Next Husband

She is so beautiful: you’ve noticed.

Her green-brown eyes—

that dab of brown in the wheel of green.

Her thin nose I’d pretend to nip

when we used to kiss and mess about.

Her laugh, head slightly to one side.

Always the hair on her neck.

She’d gaze into my eyes

as if to discover the cells,

muscle and marrow of how I worked.

Waltzing across the bedroom,

she nursed our crying children

into soft bundles of sleep;

tiredness a black hole,

such strength I knew she had,

but never knew she had.

Paint peels on the front door,

plaster beneath the wallpaper cracks

and I’m not sure I care.

There’s a box of  holiday photos

we never had time to sort.

How did I fail when

it’s so simple: a deckchair

and glass of red.

Just a piece of the afternoon.

Taking her endless list

so she could sit in the yard,

sun drawing out her freckles.

Kiss her before you go to work,

learn to paint and cook,

walk in the park when cream tulips

step out of the dusk.

In bed, we were double letters,

her breathing so light she seemed

to leave the room before purring

back into her body. Love my wife

as she once loved me.

Stuart Pickford received a major Eric Gregory Award from the Society of

Authors. His first full and only collection was The Basics that was 

shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize.