Joanne Key – three poems


There’s no easy way out of today and I’m glad of that.
The computer has a mind of its own: a touchscreen
caught in a free-for-all of false light, spiralling thought.

I used to think there would never be peace for me
stuck in this thumbscrew town. A scruffy Rapunzel
locked in a counting-house of hangups with you

stitching Loser into the collars of our hand-me-downs.
I have nothing to show for you. The day of grabbing
scraps from a handful of promise is five years gone,

along with the stranger who held me to ransom
every time I tried to rewrite history and start again.
I can’t change what will happen to you later today,

or every year from here on in, or explain why you cut
yourself away back then like a man dangling
over the cliff edge, tangled up in a flat spin.

I can’t redefine, undo, unpick, any more than I can
settle myself, kick back and slip my shoes off
in the middle of telling our story.

Time to call the stars out on their promise. I rip them
from their constellations without even looking,
watch them fizzle out. I put a knife to the moon.

You would be so proud of me now – holding grief up
to the camera, full weight draped across my arms, dark muscle
relaxing under my touch, its mouth frozen open in shock.

The Lost and Found

They wander for hours through aisles of lost property.
Here life is hard, nothing has a place or patience,

yet everyone is busy practising the art of waiting,
collecting the slow drip of days. We leave windows open

for all the yesterdays, knot photographs into rope.
We encourage the sun to rise over the beds and hope

that a stick of light will strike against a memory.
We are all frightened by what we no longer know,

bury ourselves in work, sorting hints of histories
and bags of clothes, looking for clues of a beginning

to cling to. One man empties a case, extracts
the contents with the care of a surgeon. All his stories

start with a stranger’s pain, a loss, something stolen.
He pulls out scarves and hats that he says are not his.

He stretches a wallet wide as a scream, a mouth
that can’t get its words out. The woman loves

open-ended things and so a rolled newspaper
becomes a telescope where she can watch the birds

flutter and migrate across the plain of wallpaper.
She finds comfort in the silence of objects –

a cracked cup is happy enough to be just that.
Ear to the Get Well cards, there are voices stuffed

into envelopes, demanding to be sent out
in the next post, back to their true owners.

Here we learn how quickly happiness can turn
into loss, how easy it is for people to leave

something behind and then find themselves
too far away to turn back.

Enchanted by Outside

You peg the last of your failing sun
into a groundsheet and twilight nestles
on your skin, settles around your feet.

Now only silence matters as it flutters
into your living space, warming its wings
on your thoughts of a fireplace.

You stare, wide-eyed into the night.
Here, is loneliness and there are processes
to go through, adjustments to make

in a place where it is normal to see
shadows on every corner and a storm
hovering, about to unleash in the kitchen.

There is always a threat breathing
down your neck and the stress of your home
hanging by a thread, clinging to ground

that’s barely level. You look at the world
on the inside with your eyes shut tight.
The outside opens its mouth and feeds you

foxes and owl-speak, rocks you to sleep,
so slowly you feel your coat of darkness
thickening into fur, soft and deep.

Joanne Key lives in Cheshire where she writes poetry and short fiction. Her work appears in various places online and in print. She won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.


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