Blackbox Manifold

Issue 13: Kate Behrens

Looking For Clues


The two-year-old in chequered shoes

lifts the fine arch of her brows

over an orange chair-back

from under a jammy corona

light as one of your blue tits’ nests.

Later as I’m listening out

to sounds an oyster might whistle,

she wheels her pram and doll

past the water dispenser,

waves goodbye to everyone

and the verdigris air’s an envelope

sealing itself on her sap.


You’re forced to miss a flying bird

(now the same as everything else,

stark as words left in the air).

The steel-framed hill flickers

with all your old belongings.

I steer you by an unfathomable

tenderness in your rigid arm,

past the hospital book stall

and even the barrier

freeing us to the roundabout

just grew livelier…



Half-numb from a yellow glaze

we’d plodded in smells of unshed sap

losing integrity, into the dusk…

Was it serendipity, then,

tumbling a glaucous flash

and arsenal fashioned from black and blue play

to this, a rare interpreter

of raven glossolalia,

or that a raven remembered you?



Close to a quiet crater

chert fists are winking scarlet. 

There’s blood in the eye of the forest

though green blackens it,

larches phosphoresce

and some thin cataract’s

uncertainly scrawled over

right to the tips of skeleton oaks,

just under a human’s lines.

You’ve got the medicine

river and voice prescribed;

sloe, ash, pungent ribes –

here, this burnt out hollow

where we’ll find morels.



On the slope we’re into Carthusians –

toenails as blue as indigo

touch the thrown-out chalk.

You stop, tickle some Dame’s Violet,

remark that in this ditch your toe

was where at 2 a.m last night

a glow worm lit your path,

how baby tawnys sssss’d you off,

and later, in Hill Road,

tongue loosened further by hedges,

‘let’s trip these cyclists into tomorrow’,

followed by dreams of Father Pio,

your recipe for pilchard soup

and all the possible things to do

with neam…

I’m drifting as counties of women

hail prayers down your scars.

Kate Behrens was born in 1959, one of twin daughters to two painters. Her first collection, The Beholder, was published in 2012 and a second is due to come out in early 2016. Other poems have appeared here in Blackbox Manifold (Issue 9) and in various anthologies. She was a runner up in Mslexia’s 2010 competition and a poem was chosen as Oxford Brookes ‘Poem of the Week’. She reads regularly at Poets Cafe in Reading.

Kate has one daughter and lives in Oxfordshire.