Woman and Rat
It’s just us amongst nettles serrating
the wind. Me and a rat in the water drum
covered with a lid, floating nose down.
For days I’ve ignored it, a skitter
of death dropped into my lap, fur
the colour of cloud shift, autumn
spraying its name over our heads.
I stare at a rat swollen as a balloon.
Tail flexing scales to the tune of old rain
dripping off the shed into the pool.
It doesn’t look like a creature a woman
should run from now, no more
than a ball, except for its paws,
foxglove pink stuck to its bloat
like an afterthought of suede gloves
left on a bench. The child’s fishing net
I hold is so small, my hands too bare
to grasp a tail. So I stare, nettles
kissing my legs awake, as I flip
the drum lid, fling my shivers
into the river over the fence.
The Half Life of Heidi
Let’s say no one died, I didn’t have to climb
a mountain, hear snow shuffle above me,
an old man clearing rocks from his throat,
if I simply stayed in the city, drifted
like a nightdress losing its line into my life,
a sleepwalker perched on tall windows,
slices of sky curdling over the factories
soft as cheese, mouth watering
at a goat’s milk coloured moon.
I could be skinny, hunger for bites
I never saw on my plate, blunt fingers
stodgy, unversed in tracing streams
onto blind women’s hands, dabbing
on the progress of melting snow.
I’d still be me, almost. And you’d still be
a goat boy, asleep, pillowed by udders.
The eyes of the herd closing, pouring out
the molten glass of an hour you dreamt
of a girl with horns under her corset,
kids rutting the walls of her chest.
Two Hundred Snow Geese
Couldn’t say why she decided right then,
she wouldn’t see in another spring with him.
The day the geese fell into the lake, one,
another, a steel fork of flight rattled out
of air, interlocked as a cutlery drawer.
She folded herself into the log pile,
umbrella useless, birds falling
onto crabgrass, carrying the sound
of a thousand winter trees shaking off
a burden of snow. So soft, they looked,
still, breast plump full of sunrises, pockets
of warm air on other islands. And so loud,
even in death, gun metal wings torpedoes
making shrapnel of the quiet around his house.
She waited, plotting her path through
snow banks of bird, pictured the mainland,
the size of the steps she’d have to take.
Angela Readman’s poetry has won The Mslexia Poetry Competition, The Charles Causley, and The Essex Poetry Prize. She also writes stories, and has won The Costa Short Story Award, and The National Flash Fiction Day Competition. Her short story collection Don’t Try This at Home, which was published in May 2015 by And Other Stories, won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection.