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.
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.
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.