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Helen Calcutt

the poet

Helen Calcutt is the author of two volumes of poetry. Her first, Sudden rainfall (2014), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. Helen's second work, Unable Mother, described by Robert Peake as ‘a violent and tender grapple with our cosy notions of motherhood’, appeared in 2018. Helen's poetry, journalism and critical writing have been published widely, and she is the creator and editor of acclaimed poetry anthology Eighty-Four – published in aid of leading suicide prevention charity CALM. Her newest pamphlet will be published in 2020.

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the poems

Pale deer, soft-footed

00:00 / 01:33

The water is silk. She sings to me.

The cold wind, the streets, the people

flicker and shut off when the water

falls, and I am naked within –

singing of my dirt, how to know it.

My eyes close ... in these few sacred moments

when my daughters sleep and my loved

one reads about Vikings and flayed skin.

The water is like a pattering of milk.

I want to stoop, and lick, and taste life again.

I ask, did I give too easily today? was I good?

baring my throat to the sky, the lit tiles

reflect a deer, pale, and soft-footed.

I run my fingers down my hair

in St Water – I pray to her, choose me

flow over, and over, and over

me, touch me, heal

heal until I am no longer meek or mild

and I can run with my sins again.

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Grief is like a miracle

00:00 / 01:02

like opening your mouth for water, and finding rain.
You stand for days outside the body of a silent church.
Snow touches the stillness of the windows and
you long for their acceptance, a few tears.
You tell yourself the door isn’t closed:
it’s open and weeping. Like the orange rose
that never bloomed all spring
then one day in autumn        opened atriums of colour.
Now all the roses gather and the door
is open-armed. People think I am strange
touching my lips to the wood, but
ice is thawing to love inside my body:
I don’t know how else to show my gratitude.

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00:00 / 01:12

Oldest of Seas, old

friend, no one hears you slink

back no one

hears his own

music anymore.

Morning, soft heart, warm

and unstartable

expands    from her threads

at the earth's edge,

unfaithful at last, brushing the ferns

the anemone flowers.

Light is longing to come home.

In other worlds women

tie knots in their bodice strings,

sing songs, hang

flycatchers from the moon.

But here, where the sun

hums in her socket

where searoot and bloodroot

insist on their comforting

where the fire in the mountain wall

torches our hands –

like a bead of clear light

the sea revolves

through morning wind,

and recognises us.

Publishing credits

Pale deer, soft-footed: The London Magazine

Grief is like a miracle: Wild Court

Mytilini: Sudden rainfall (Perdika Editions)

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