Poetry: ‘Prawns Of Joe’ By Rachael Allen

This week's new writing comes from the poetically omnipresent (Tender, Clinic, Granta - oh my!) Rachael Allen in the form of 'Prawns of Joe', a poem originally published in print by our good friends over at Test Centre

Prawns of Joe

After Selima Hill

When I had a husband I found it hard to breathe.

I was up early he’d get home late

to rub the baby, we took it in turns.

He left, and if someone knocked for him

now at the door, I would not let him go to them.

In amongst all the crying, I see

a burning child on the stove.

The same one as before?

The curtains are full of soot. Well quickly,

we need to escape. Well surely.

No, I watch her burn.

What is it I love about the sound of dogs barking

as smoke rises out the window?

What a complete noise, like a pile of hands clapping.

Another body found burned in the oval,

purple and mystical

and all around her

peppery crisps in the shape of a heart.

There’s a woman over the road

who moved in when he left.

She has a black little finger

and has been watching me for days.

Her shadow is that of a man’s in the right light.

Sometimes she’s right outside the window

sometimes I think she’s in the house

in the cupboard under the sink

or behind the shower curtain.

I hold her name like grit between my teeth

turning cartwheels by the edge of the stream.

The air is touchy, fibreglass,

summer streams through the trees like a long blond hair.

I want to grab all the things that make me ashamed

and throw them from the bridge

like how I don’t like the sun at the end of the day,

eating cold cream cake on the dimming porch

in the yellow breeze, lonely,

just thinking up these stories.

So I fling my fork into the bark like a stroppy dictator,

it makes that cartoon stuck-in-wood noise.

I am stuck in the middle of the month (again).

I would like to have some time on my hands

something like a stain.

Happy Birthday floats up to my window

followed by your name, your purple name.

Rachael Allen is the online and poetry editor for Granta. She is co-editor of poetry anthology series Clinic and online journal Tender. A pamphlet of her poems is published with Faber as part of the Faber New Poets series. Test Centre Five in which ‘Prawns of Joe’ appears, is available now from Test Centre

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