Melanie Branton – three poems

After Larkin

The vast, warm store on the High Street,
pimping overpriced clothes. An overheated house
of mandatory fun, where placards
shriek, “Mix It Up!”, “Playful Colours!”
above rails of sour lemons, hard emeralds, thorned roses,
chains, belts, clutches, tights, corsets,
wire cages trimmed with lace, deceitful
whites that you know will renege
to grey within a couple of washes,
where uniforms with clipboards
guard a chilly hall of mirrors.
They tag you with a number, before
hiding you behind a heavy curtain.

But past the columns of structured separates,
past the headless mannequins twisted
into seductive poses, past a line of twill slacks
pressed into knife pleats confronting you,
a flight of airforce blue, a whole flotilla of navies,
sprawl Men’s Casuals. Charcoal that glows
into umber, groves of olive, a Sahara
of khaki opens out before you. Airy
boxers flap in the breeze from the fan,
elasticated slips bunch on a pair of thrusting hips,
Y-fronts, algebraic in their mysteries, enfold
a value you’ll never find, an insoluble equation

that warns us we will never know what men are,
or what they do, that they will always lounge
beyond the limits of our striplit section,
loose knit, light jersey leisurewear
printed with cartoon characters.

The Guardians

I use the names of people I love,
people who were once briefly kind to me,
as passwords, talismans I touch
several times a day, my fingers

seeking out their gentle kiss in the keys
to my treasure chest, my word hoard.
They stand sentry, ward off harm.
I type and, by the magic of megabytes,
they are transfigured into little stars.

I wish upon them.

Instructions for Candidates

Do not turn over your paper
until instructed to do so.

You may attempt the questions in
any order you like.
You do not have to answer
in full sentences.
Some sections of the paper will be
multiple choice.

All work submitted must be
the candidate’s own.
Do not write in the margins.
Write clearly and legibly
in black ink.
If you make a mistake,
draw a line through it
with a ruler
and start again.
You will not be marked on your spelling.

If there is anything you do not understand,
put your hand up
and try to attract the attention of an invigilator.
If you require any additional equipment,
put your hand up
and try to attract the attention of an invigilator.
If you feel unwell,
put your hand up
and try to attract the attention of an invigilator.

It is the candidate’s own responsibility
to ensure that he or she manages the time wisely:
you will not be told how much time you have left.

When told to stop writing,
put your pen down immediately.
You must leave the examination room in silence.

The following page has been left intentionally blank.

Melanie Branton is a poet and spoken word artist from North Somerset. Her first collection will be published by Oversteps Books towards the end of 2017.

Melanie Branton – three poems


I wanted to be enveloped by manilla:
strong, secure,
large letter size, recyclable.
I wanted to be bubble-wrapped.

But I found only men who were
lightweight, tear-resistant,
single use only,
self-sealing or
would not bend.
Second class.

They got lost in the post
and, damaged in transit,
my life has remained

Kissing With Tongues

We love it, our little mongrel bastard,
spawned when Harold was shafted at Hastings.
A Norman bowman’s battle prick
burst the hymen of his eye,
spuming its load of Romance seed
into our Anglo-Saxon core.

Since then we’ve been kissing with tongues
with our inamorati, our fiancés, with the ombudsman,
at the rendezvous, in the bungalow, at the kindergarten,
for the paparazzi, for the pundits, for the hoi polloi.
We’ve sampled the smorgasbord and
that tutti-frutti macedoine
made our tastebuds sing.


I exchange polite formalities
with a man I’ve just met
and I notice he’s standing a little taller
and he’s started smoothing down his hair.

Our eyes meet
and it seems to me his pupils widen,
ink drops spreading through blotting paper.

I make discreet enquiries
and it turns out he’s got a girlfriend
(Of course he does. They always do.),

but I still want to thank him for
those few suspended seconds
of possibility

for the way I began to warm up
like a badly wired toaster
that had accidentally been plugged in,
giving off a fierce, but unstable heat
that could burn your house down,
but will probably just
cut out.

Melanie Branton shouts ineffectually at teenagers at an FE college as her day job. She has had poems accepted by journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House and Obsessed With Pipework. She was also the 2015 Bristol Hammer and Tongue regional slam champion. You can follow her blog at and her tweets @sapiencedowne