Poems by Pippa Little (UK)
Published in The Ofi Press issue 38.
I stole skeins of your hair
from our hairbrush
just as I took
stuff you left around
that smelled of you, owned your mystery.
You were who I could never be.
I was the one who cried
in the only wordless hour
we sat as a family
before the doctor:
years you talked for me,
I’m sorry for all of it,
the unmothering, unfathering,
the hurt that felt like love
and how I love you now
as we grow old in separation.
On Starbucks’ corner hunched against the cold
I’ve been here since the moon was high;
come morning, blow hard into the knot
of my blue hands, I have no hope
today will be more than the old shuttle
between being sober and being blotto.
It’s a kind of leaving without going, blotto:
an easy travelling farther away than cold,
swift and sure as a loom shuttle
I go clean and I go high,
way past being lost or found – in hope
only that one day I shall free this knot,
memory-knot, hunger knot, knot
that’s the opposite of blotto -
if you see me huddled at your feet I hope
you’d throw me more than a blind cold
stare from your important walking, high
above me, on your commuter shuttle:
to and fro you go, slaves of that great shuttle
faster and faster and for what? A slimy knot
you can never shift from your gut. Only a high
ending and a hurrah and I’ll soon be blotto,
my fanfare in your face, my joke against life’s cold
shoulder, in the sure and resounding hope
of what must come, hope in spite of hope.
The north wind’s a blade-sharp shuttle
I’m an impediment to its purpose, cold.
All in the end I’ve got is this ordinary knot
That’s me. Do you know blotto?
Do you know high?
Out cold, high, face kicked to a knot,
small hope of recovery. Found by the airport shuttle, blotto.
Big-bellied, bosomy, you bare your rump
to North America: these Atlantic airs have buffed your
spectacular ugliness, bouffant mad mother -
too many husbands, or too few,
you are no white ship sailing away
but one bent anchor, unblinking witness:
moon-battered too long for any kindness
you rage on the cliffs in your workhouse shift
all grey lichen, yellowing bruises,
yours to command, this origin-song you teach me
over and over until I learn, though I never manage it:
how shame and pride have nothing to say to one another
but are as snail and shell, one strange flesh.
I still ache to bury my loneliness in you, the way an injured tern
might huddle into the rocks of Skellig Michael,
breaking her African journey long enough
to let that rough tongue work its mercy.
The Hag of Beara is a stone form looking out to sea from South West Cork.
Pippa Little was born in East Africa, raised in Scotland, and now lives in Northumberland. She has worked in editing, literacy and higher education and has a PhD in contemporary women’s poetry from London University. Her first collection, The Spar Box, came out in 2006 and was a PBS Pamphlet Choice. Winner of an Eric Gregory Award, The Norman MacCaig Centenary Prize, The Andrew Waterhouse Northern Promise Award and the Scotsman Haiku Prize among others. He second collection, Overwintering, was published by Carcanet in 2012.
Images: Vetatur Fumare: "Wife's hairbrush up-close" and Beverly Goodwin: "Nautical knot".