Geraldine Clarkson lives and works in Warwickshire.
Her various occupations have included teaching English to refugees and migrants, working in warehouses, care homes, libraries, churches, offices and a call centre, and living in a silent monastic order for some years in South America. She has published poetry pamphlets with Smith|Doorstop and Shearsman Books. Her debut collection, Monica's Overcoat of Flesh, was published by Nine Arches Press in 2020.
maybe a tree falls
or a bear keels
maybe all the creatures of song are brought low
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and the moon fails
clearly a light has left the earth
while the waters stopped clapping their hands
it’s the end of lilies
and liver-freckled butterflies
the last flew off this summer
the wind is tired now
has petit mal
is going home
shutting up shop
just a few scarlet leaves
spin in its sigh
as it boards up the door
Muzzy McIntyre brushed her bangs and went pell-mell down the staircase. The banisters pulled her palms back with their waxy residue and the ball at the bottom looked grey-black with grease. This place has gone downhill, she thought, descending. But she went out onto the front step and the mahogany door was flaming—it was that time of day—and the brass lion knocker, brilliant, was shooting out gold spears. All around, the red brick of the houses was deepening. For the sake of these twelve minutes or so, perhaps, one could tolerate the blanched mornings and the puny electric nights; the dust; and critters; the drunken singing of the wind in the passage; the pious crooning of the neighbours. The waiting. Her other self, the slow Muzzy, ambled out to take the air. She looked up and down the street, laid the flat of her hand to her forehead, against the slanting light. Another fine day tomorrow, she drawled, headlocking a memory.
After two unhappy marriages, my sister settled
on a man who marked their mid-life union
by retraining as a vermin operative,
the neon strips in his kitchen having turned caramel
with cockroaches. He mastered the mechanics
and theory of quenching little lives that flickered
briefly in strange environs. And noted, for instance,
that when roaches infested a disused cooker,
it was always the babies who emerged first
when you ignited the gas. The gas was,
that if you left it burning, little roarers kept on
coming, and in increasing sizes, till the fat
daddy-roaches finally left the ship.
He studied weevils which flourished
in flour. And silver fish that slivered
at human approach. Rat-trapping
was daunting at first, then a thrill.
I heard that housewives would call him out
to halt fledgling tits which had flown
into summer kitchens, twitching behind fridges;
pigeons plumped in chimneys; squirrels
nesting in lofts, all high hiss and spit.
He used to say, my sister’s husband,
as he polished his leather belt on a Saturday,
ready for church (the belt had a fine silver buckle
which shone and jingled), that pests are only
creatures who happen to have strayed
into alien territory. It made me hope my sister
pleased him, and fitted in; was protective of her brood.