Natalie Shaw – three poems

And you will fall asleep by the time I count to a hundred

Lean into the cot, reach down,
breathe in, breathe out, pat.
When the crying starts again

go back to the beginning
wash twenty thousand socks
pair and unpair, pair and

unpair. Breakfast, lunch and
tea – set out, clear up,
wipe down. Lateness will mean

tears: don’t stop, start
again: run the bath
again: brush the teeth

again: breathe in, it’s late,
don’t cry. At the edge, don’t
look down or back or in.

Stand still, sing a song.
Hush, keep counting, pat.
Start again from zero.


In the zip of my suitcase
In the threads of my knickers
The toys with the knobbly bits
The toys with instructions
See-through sarcophagi for fruit and for lettuce,
Carrots and peppers, potatoes and onions

The files and containers, dividers and flaps
The circuitboards, keyboards, the tabs and escapes
The toys and the toys and the toys and the toys
Ski boots and helmets and toggles and tags
Pedals and dashboards: turn left, make it hot
Contraceptive devices, waterproof sheeting
Shower trays, curtains, goggles and gloves

The bags in the cupboard
The bottles for water
The lid for the syrup
The case for the felt tip
The stretch of the fabric
The film in the attic
The glasses that suit me
The three pairs that broke

Pots for the lotion, tubes for the toothpaste
Dimple-popped packets for pills to stop sadness
Breast pumps for mothers and trays shaped for apples
The ambassador’s very best chocolates in boxes
All of it parcelled off, molded, dispatched
Sealed in and suckered, stoppered, shrink-wrapped.


It is the first thing we look for and find
it fills us up –
we are
calmed and
quieted by it, fall asleep with it, cry for it
maybe tired/hungry/sad/hungry/all
sometimes we smell it on others
we want it
we root for it
it is ours

later, our teeth are named for it
we sleep without it, alone
the soft warm places are not ours any more
it is from another animal, it is from a bottle
we drink from cold hard places
there are other things now
we are more than just drinking now
there are other things now

we are big:
our teeth fall out and we swap them for money in the night
now it comes to us
in one-each bottles in one-each squares in a blue plastic crate
we take our bottle at breaktime
we push straws through tin foil circles
we are busy with other things
on a sunny day it goes funny and we leave it

now we are the ones and it is a small choice
it is foamed on our sophisticated coffees or
it is something we decline
we look better without it, dark and hard
we do not think of it
it is everyday, it is always on our list
it is with cereal at breakfast
sometimes we do not eat breakfast
sometimes we smoke cigarettes instead, or stay in bed

Natalie Shaw lives and works in London. Her poems have appeared in various online and print journals, including Butcher’s Dog, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Prole and The Interpreter’s House. She blogs from time to time at


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