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.
Pale deer, soft-footed
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.
Grief is like a miracle
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.
Oldest of Seas, old
friend, no one hears you slink
back no one
hears his own
Morning, soft heart, warm
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.