Issue 21: Tessa Berring and Kathrine Sowerby

Their Wings Too Soft To

It was made of towelling

not quite buttercup, not sliced lemon

and stretched over my stomach

when I swam up and down, up and down

a butterfly on the surface of the water

bruises on my hands

There’s a pier at the end of the lane, they said

How surprised they were

when I sang – so loudly –

about being followed

about falling over in corners

while you wrote about lemons

and lies, lies, lies

Comma! Apostrophe! Comma!

That was loud too,

and I had to laugh in secret

so as not to wake the baby

wrapped in a towel

Apostrophe! Comma! Apostrophe!

Like hunger when it’s rushed

Nothing lasts long

which is the opposite of visitors

and stones and weed and sleep

and dreams that don't matter at all

You are so fat, she screamed

Will there be fish packed tight with bones?

Fish cut into perfect squares?

Singing in French?

Le jour et la nuit – off by heart!

Then I will sing about pubic hair

A gazoo gazoo – hair everywhere

There’s only so much you can fit

in a rental car. The baby?

My coat fastens round both of us

when the wind blows

Turn and walk the other way!

I took my swimsuit off

peeled it – you know the feeling?

The tank of water that is slimy and rusty

at the same time, which makes me stop and think

about weight


There's a lay by

with grass that nobody cuts

but this time there is falling

and a ball that bounces two thirds of the way

gazoo gazoo

My hands hurt

Can you hear the helicopter?

There's a corner I can reach and a sweet smell

Did the baby grow up? It doesn’t take long

and there are so many apples

I'll call mine 'Thief' or 'Radio Pip'

Everyone should just shut up

and duck behind the tree

I’m glad we’re not singing

Will the bruises go away?

and the commas I want to ignore

gazoo gazoo

drip drip drip

At least my swimsuit is dry

As If To Say, That Is How Love Works

I think of hand puppets in the bed – so diplomatic, so expressive. So empty afterwards, like lettuce so loveless. Was I blue bear, were you red cat?

Dreams that are not dreamed in time explode!

They have to go somewhere. In boxes, labelled. Or tucked inside other boxes you can only open with a fingernail. Don’t bite!

My body worked better than my voice. Worked better? Was louder? It bent in directions my voice could not. Is that what I meant?

It’s one meaning. Each meaning takes you closer to whatever it is you mean, which is another meaning, Meaning: keep going.

When I speak I want you to know that you are listening. I have important things to say.

My hands are eloquent and thoughtless and my eyes close so easily. You have the eyes of a child waking up.

My thoughtless hands slide into a blue bear and tell it straight. They tell it straight and my thumb is warm.

My hands reach under furniture and sweep up handfuls of hair.

Soap vanishes, and we get more soap, and we rub it all over our bodies. I imagined hallways of boots, mud and not caring. That home would always be safe.

My hands are eloquent and my body is soft. The blue bear is flat. I kept the puppy’s eye for a long time with good intentions, black thread dangling.

Gestures like buying your lover an iced bun. Too late my sweet.

It's no-one's fault when the knives drop into the flowers, when the mice are giants, when everyone wakes up screaming.

My eyes hurt, or is that just something I say? A catch phrase like the bitten hair and all those things I lie about liking.

I don't want your golden apples! Hey, keep the chill to yourself! I will shut the doors, peel oranges till I weep over the shelves.

Oranges smell good, even grapefruit sold in bottles smell like oranges. More orange than oranges, which tips meaning closer to meaning.

That mixing up of octopus, bruised fruit and knots of purple hair. Plus rose leaves and salt. Hard to know what to do with it. Such small type.

I was wrong, Blue bear was a cat. My hands forget what is what. Like the rabbit that was an obvious squirrel. Sometimes you forget or believe too much.

And no matter how hard you try the smell won’t go away, the shoe won’t fit. Perhaps I am greedy, have you ever drunk cream?

Hands are difficult to lay flat, unlike gloves or empty cats. Stop!

I must send out a list and make my new disguise. Hooray says the friend. Everything will be good. Your eyes are blue as a medicine box.

I want to be far and near. I want to smile with natural radiance. Can you?

Tessa Berring and Kathrine Sowerby live in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. More of their collaborative work can be found via Zarf Poetry, Datableedzine, 3: AM Magazine, A) Glimpse) Of) and The Scores. They also produce their own pamphlets under the imprint Whole Endeavour Press. These Include 'Bazooka' and 'Tables and Other Animals, a Poem in Four Acts'.

Copyright © 2018 by Tessa Berring and Kathrine Sowerby, 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.