Emma Lee – three poems

Turn Up the Volume

She plays the same CD in her car,
matching junctions to specific songs
to monitor her speed to the same daily pace,
the volume always on a prime number.
Everything on her desk has its place.
She watches the soap operas and reads Glamour
so she can talk to colleagues.
Her wardrobe is divided between
pencil skirts and blouses, and block colour shifts.
Make-up from a neutral palette.
She holidays at the same hotel,
sunbathes after breakfast, shops in the afternoon.
Meals are weighed and measured
from a restrictive menu.

She turned down his restaurant invite.
But he knows she’ll marry him.
All he has to do is make small
adaptions to her routine, offer protection
and become familiar enough to be allowed
to undo the zip on her dress.
He thinks he knows what will be revealed.

But doesn’t know about the scar
under her left breast, under her ribs
or what might happen when a mouse roars.


Butterflies at Breakfast

The delicacy of the pattern
on his tee shirt contrasts
with the sleeve tattoos
hardened muscle tone
and callouses from labour.

She has wrapped a spacious
brown cardigan over an LBD.
Hair tugged into a scrunchie.
Make-up shows smoky, smudged eyes,
possibly last night’s toned down
then retouched. Her shoes the flats
that can be squashed into a handbag.

They order a full English:
brunch and a hangover cure in one.
The butterflies on his tee
crowd along the hem
and drift up towards
the neckline where they
become singletons in flight.


All Emmas have a tragic end

at least in pop songs: suicide, overdose,
injuries from a car crash, an empty house
left behind after drowning, sentenced
to hell and silence, the end of an affair
with the lover who saps her strength.
Emma found herself incommunicado,
falling like rain under grey cloud,
a red, Christmas flower under acid tears,
silenced in drunken streets and misunderstood.
She was a blonde angel, a princess, a blue-eyed baby,
who wanted to be a star, who wanted better
who couldn’t see she was all she needed to be,
who wanted to be human, to be loved.
Emma’s the girl known by everyone.


Emma Lee’s most recent collection is Ghosts in the Desert (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015). She co-edited Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves, 2015) and Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016). She reviews for The High Window Journal, The Journal, London Grip and Sabotage Reviews and blogs at https://emmalee1.wordpress.com

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Emma Lee – four poems

This funeral won’t be Televised
(unknown badger 26/3/15)

I find vertebrae in the shape of a sine wave,
although this curved spine belonged to a small badger
and was found picked clean under a shrub.
I dig a shallow trench alongside,
not wanting to disturb rhubarb roots.
My voice is not good enough to sing a Psalm.
You’ll be buried where you fell
with no horse-drawn journey from battlefield
to resting place. I ease your bones into their grave,
noticing you were missing a hind leg,
part of a front paw and a lower jaw
and it’s only Leicestershire soil that joins your remains.
There’s no Academy-award nominated actor
to read this poem. Merely a reassurance
your presence was noted and won’t be forgotten.


The Typist on the Thames
(after “The Wasteland III The Fire Sermon” – T.S. Eliot)

The sky turns violet as she retrieves
and folds her laundry. I wanted
something more for her
than a sales clerk full of himself
after the idea of a wife
to bolster his career, support him.
I didn’t want her to settle
into a half-lived life, fearful
of claiming something for herself
or turning into a thirty-something
divorcee with two children,
moaning about a useless ex,
swapping a work suit for PJs
as soon as she was home,
flitting from soap to Facebook to twitter,
waiting for an invite, an interruption
and not getting on with life in the meantime.


A Dance in a White Dress

A silence would be just as intrusive
as a babble about bus routes from three friends
in a waiting room they shouldn’t be in.
I focus on the spearmint-coloured mat
and the calm of the carpeted corridor
that leads to the muted clack of keyboard
after I explain he died where he was born.

That room was a pale green too.
I resisted the proposed move to a white hospice,
that was further away, through road works
that would have robbed us of time.
I didn’t cry, merely held the weight of memories.
It was later, watching the smooth control
and perfect placement of a dance
that stole my breath and brought tears.


An Abandoned Football

A passing cyclist says “thank you.”
as I pick up yet another cigarette butt.
It joins the drinks cans, sweet wrappers,
cellophane, lottery tickets. No treasure here.
Just a desire to tidy, to feel
as if something’s been achieved.
At least until the tide of litter returns.
I leave the football, abandoned
in a ditch but now revealed.
It’s intact but a little deflated.


Emma Lee’s “Ghosts in the Desert” is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing (2015). Her previous publications are “Mimicking a Snowdrop” (Thynks Publications 2014) and “Yellow Torchlight and the Blues” (Original Plus, 2013).

She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for The Journal, Sabotage and London Grip.