Catherine Ayres – four poems


I understand why you left; not because
of moorland behind your eyes, snow packed high
as walls against a track, broken places,
pine stretching through fire into the sky. No,
you left because I tilted maps, slanted
fields until they yearned for sun, every
tree at twilight the remains of a dance
in dust. Forgive this ache for the unloved.
I know you need an altar, hilltops lithe
with light, your shadow’s spire across the fell.
I fray these edges gold, torment your heart
with fragile sacraments. My love, walk on.
You worship blink of distance against stone;
I kneel at puddles’ shrines. We pray alone.

Woman at dusk

The day slips its skin.
A line of beech waits for the moon.
Birds are mousey in the hedge –
a small one aches across the sun.
The sky is a chrysalis,
then a molten line like the lip of the sea,
then too much fire to be sad.
The woman steps inside.
From her kitchen window, stars.


If I could take back the first time you touched me.

Light swells my spine,
the horizon aches.

Up here, only land and sky.

I have come to birth our ghosts on this fell.

A grouse chuckles in the gentle-bleak.
The curlew sings her madness to the stars.


Yes, I am lost.
But on the lawn
by the circle of cars
a slant of dusk
finds the tree.
I watch it flare.
Sometimes there is
just enough light.

Catherine Ayres works as a teacher in Northumberland. In 2015, she came 3rd in the Hippocrates Prize and in 2016 she won the Elbow Room Prize. Her debut collection, Amazon, is published by Indigo Dreams.

Catherine Ayres – five poems

If all else fails

there’s the hollow of my bed
the door edge illuminated like a gospel
a glass sky floating my room in a cul de sac
the sodium of orange stars

What you said doesn’t matter anymore

There’s a tree in my back yard, a hedge.
The birds inside are squeaking;
it’s a sign they’re going to fledge.
You’ll be drinking now the sun’s out,
licking cigarettes with the edge of your tongue.
Burn your coffee in that old tin pan,
hear the chicks, smoke on.


It’s always like this now: I have an apathetic heart, turned in on itself
like the hood of a coat in the playground. A turtle, my son calls it. Yes,
I have a turtle heart, turned in on itself, with a hard shell. It’s peaceful inside
and soft. I love it more than you.

Going Concern

We’ve all set up shop at some point,
dressed a window with curiosities.
I’ve been in business for years
but no one wants a snow globe,
an octopus, or a set of plastic spoons.
This market’s too niche
and I’m sick of taking stock.
It’s time to cut my losses and run.
I’ll hang a sign on the door:
Been ill. Felt sad. Out to lunch.

Sweets for my sweet

All this, and he still wanted the strawberry cream.
I told him he could have the green one,
the caramel, the fucking hazelnut whirl.
But he went on about it, took the piss.
So I hid my last heart in a teacup,
behind the milk at the back of the fridge.
And when I looked he’d eaten it,
nowt left, not one pink squidge.

Foiled again.

Catherine Ayres is a teacher who lives in Northumberland. Her poems have appeared in a number of print and online magazines, including Ink, Sweat and Tears and The Moth. She recently came third in both Ambit magazine’s ‘Under the Influence’ competition and the 2015 Hippocrates Prize.

Some of her poems will be published in pamphlet form by Black Light Engine Room later this year.