Lesley Quayle – three poems

A Woman Who Writes
‘A woman who writes feels too much.’ Anne Sexton

There’s a price to pay,
always trying to outstare the sun and not go blind.
This handful of words, skin peeled from flesh,
spreads out like a stain, is the genie loosed from a heart.

You spotlight life or death
but the passion is never simple, you are as inward
and as outward as a maze, your voyages smash
against stars or slip beneath rolling oceans.

It’s a strange house you live in,
not hostile, full of embryos and ghosts,
where men and children, food and dust,
the friendly, confessional company of women,
are not enough – are much too much.
Each day breaks over you with startling light,
nights clasp you in their shuddering dark.

You are chameleon, the invisible eavesdropper,
who hears breath beneath whispers as bombs or choirs.
Fill your ears with lead, your mouth with salt,
cast out your eyes – you will still feel too much.

The Fire-bell

The nurses wouldn’t let me take her into the dry garden,
where wan, heartbroken flowers shrivelled among stones.

They said she’d thrown her meal, smashed
the plate to smithereens – then set the fire-bell off.
They shaded their anger with anodyne phrases.
“She’s been a naughty girl and now she’s overtired.
She’d best stay in and rest. No garden today.”

I sat beside her, on the stone hard floor, held her hand,
stroked fragile, dappled skin, reptilian with age.
“They won’t let you out, Gran. Did you press the fire-bell?”
Faded eyes ignited. Her laughter split the cold day’s side.

Some of us had gathered

Some of us had gathered as she lay sleeping,
small and white, toothless, almost bald,
new born in death.

One held her hand, another stroked
her dry, cold cheek. The rest of us stood,
sat or loitered awkwardly around the bed.

There was no raging, she simply settled,
as if it were a Sunday afternoon, to dozing.

In the early hours, through the ascending light,
some said she opened up her eyes. I didn’t see.
We held our breath, and heard only silence.

Lesley Quayle is a prizewinning poet whose work has appeared in many magazines and journals, including The North, The Rialto, Ink Sweat and Tears, Tears in the Fence, The Fat Damsel and The High Window amongst others. She has two collections – Sessions (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013) and A Perfect Spit At The Stars (Spanna in the Works, 1999) and a poetry pamphlet – Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce Press, 2009),  and was a featured BBC Wildlife magazine Poet of the Year. A former editor of Aireings, the Leeds-based poetry magazine, she is also a folk and blues singer.

Lesley Quayle – three poems

One Night Stand

She’s first up.
From the window
she watches the sky
spit in the gutters.

Dishevelled by the night,
with yesterday’s dark glamour
she watches.

Stale as old beer and
rank as the crammed ashtray
he emerges.
Yesterday’s head collides with today.

Slams the door.

From the window
she watches him
spit in the gutter.

Ceci n’est pas une date

Here was the moment when it came apart,
a judder, scrape of tyres on a gravel lane, crank
of unco-operative gears. Hours parked, the old car
jacked aslant beneath a burst of elder, bramble and
the ancient crones of ash trees, rattling their seeds,
you sweating, grunting, musked by heat and toil,
the wheel-nuts rusted, each wrench and slip of brace
a petite mort. Hope rises
only to fall on its arse.

Hot-blooded in your rage, you threw the brace
I watched it spin over yellow grass,
skim straggled sycamores and split the sky.
You looked like a young god, kneeling, head down,
damp curls tender on the nape of your neck,
shirt sculpted to your body in dark patches.
I lay down beside you, mapped in soil and grit,
silent, unfamiliar then with the lexicon of lust,
unconcerned with rescue plans,
squinting at clouds,
the graffiti of birds.

When the Coo Coughs A Cuddy

Brought up on the ‘Orange’ side
of the Glasgow Road, between the park
and the dirty eddies of the Clyde
seeping down to the dog track,

every Saturday we pressed
our noses to the window panes
to see the gabardines and bunnets process
their skinny, muzzled greyhounds

up the scheme, heard Uncle Dan
slip out the house, his pockets loaded,
as if grandma didn’t know him better than
the back road home – blindfolded.

“He’ll be back the nicht, fu’ o’ drink,
wi nuthin but a hole in his pocket.”
We were being scrubbed-dunked in the sink,
skinned rabbits, wish-bone thin, a dripping racket

of scabby knees and rosy cheeks before the fire,
when we heard the back door scrape, felt the bite
of snell air as he swept on through, a slur
of whisky on his greeting, the cold, smoked night

following behind him through the room
and out into the drafty, unlit lobby,
“Did ye win?” “Naw. Mebbe next time, mebbe soon.”
“Aye, mebbe. Mebbe when the coo coafs a cuddy?”

Lesley Quayle is a poet, author and folk/blues singer, currently living in Dorset. Her poems have appeared in The North, Tears in the Fence, The Spectator, Stares Nest, Yorkshire Post, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Ink Sweat & Tears, Screech Owl, Prole, Black Sheep Journal, Pennine Platform, Second Light and Message in a Bottle (amongst others). She’s the author of a chapbook, Songs For Lesser Gods (erbacce, 2009) and a full collection, Sessions (Indigo Dreams, 2013).