Issue 19: Charlotte Eichler

The Coffin Calendars

Miss June is given lilies, Miss December’s in white fur. In the woods, twelve walnut caskets for us to stand in. Childhood Sundays, the moth-eyed rows of old men, half-living. Memento mori paintings hanging on the walls, the angels in the aisles with noseless shadows. My smile says too much about my skull. I try to stay still – the photographer says next year we’ll all have guns and camouflage bikinis. In town, people turn their heads as far as owls do. Our dresses show the winged blades of our backs as we fly off the shelves – and the men, the men joke they can’t see the coffins.


We knew everything, playing oracle on the carpet.

Saturdays crawled with our ladybird circus –

on the ends of our fingers, solemn as blood,

                we sent them to find our future husbands.

We let them trickle down

                our wrists into the birdbath

to see if they’d keep walking while we drowned them,

jealous of their easy flight

               from one shape to the next.

Now, like hanged men, we want to buy futures

and there’s someone doing tarot at the end of Brighton Pier.

Stars are poking holes in the sky and the birds

are coming into roost. There’s an airy clatter

              of cards falling into place

but stranger things are happening beneath our feet:

coppers chink through the boards

             onto rows of starlings

stacking themselves like decks, noisy as a masked ball.

             We think fluke has something to do with wings

then remember whales, gliding

                         despite the weight of all they know.

We watch the stragglers find their place under the pier,

              all the sea’s dark spread ahead of us.


Six foot five and all you eat:

a single bowl of mackerel

and a one-inch square of bread

topped with a slice of garlic

to ‘toast the Queen’.

           Coming from a bath

your body’s brittle coral,

your spine

            a seahorse curve.

We wish we could see

           your blue heart

through the pane

              of your skin

because you never

           answer questions,

flicking light

           from yourself

                       like a shoal.

Charlotte Eichler’s poetry has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and she was recently awarded a year's mentoring with Vahni Capildeo by Poetry London magazine. She lives and works in West Yorkshire, and her first pamphlet will be published by Valley Press in 2018.