Rachael Clyne (she/her) has been published in journals including Tears in the Fence, Shearsman, The Rialto, Lighthouse and Ink Sweat & Tears. She's also had work anthologised in #MeToo: A Women's Poetry Anthology, Queer Writing for a Brave New World and Rebel Talk: Poems from the Climate Emergency. Her prize-winning collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, addresses our broken connection with nature – while her pamphlet, Girl Golem, explores her Jewish migrant heritage and sense of otherness.
The night they blew life into her, she clung
bat-like to the womb-wall. A girl golem,
a late bonus, before the final egg dropped.
She divided, multiplied, her hand-buds bloomed;
her tail vanished into its coccyx and the lub-dub
of her existence was bigger than her nascent head.
She was made as a keep-watch,
in case new nasties tried to take them away.
The family called her chotchkele, their little cnadle,
said she helped to make up for lost numbers –
as if she could compensate for millions.
With X-ray eyes, she saw she was trapped
in a home for the deaf and blind, watched them
blunder into each other’s neuroses. Her task,
to hold up their world, be their assimilation ticket,
find a nice boy and mazel tov – grandchildren!
But she was a hotchpotch golem, a schmutter garment
that would never fit, trying to find answers
without a handbook. When she turned eighteen,
she walked away, went in search of her own kind,
tore their god from her mouth.
The golem legend is of a man made from clay and
Kabbalistic spells to protect Jews from persecution.
Rewilding the Body
Based on Isobella Tree’s account of
rewilding Knepp House Farm
The ribs of my country jut,
its dreams gutted,
hopes tilled to exhaustion.
Fault lines exposed
by monoculture expectation,
by intensively farmed ambition.
Let thistle stitch my wounds,
as painted-lady caterpillars feast
on the prickles.
Let pigs unzip my paths
with cracks for bastard toadflax
Let ragwort flourish
as one hundred and seventy-seven
insect species thrive on its bad reputation.
Let longhorn cattle tramp
hoof-print pools for fairy shrimp,
water crowfoot, stonewort.
And one moonlit night – nightingales
will return to fill my country
with their song.
At Passover, we dipped a finger into our wine.
We splashed a drop, for each plague named.
We did not rejoice.
On hands, in every breath,
in gullet and gizzard,
in belly of whale,
from every littered shore,
we the seas incarnadine.
After ice-melt, I pulled three frogs,
bloated and stinking, from the pond.
Can we afford to lose them?
Slugs will flourish
in this unlikely spring.
Feast on our flesh,
they wriggle their fatted way,
before winging to offshore havens,
leaving us a humanless world.
IV WILD BEASTS
In Chernobyl, wolf-law rules
empty dachas, factories.
Bears refill forests.
Here, Adonis Blue butterflies
will thrive on Salisbury Plain.
Rats and dogs will shelter in car shells.
V CATTLE PLAGUE
Play-barns with swings and muzak,
and no place for chickens.
Carousel feed-troughs rotate past cattle.
Pigs gaze through gratings at a crack of sky.
This winter virus has no end.
The people cough their way into summer.
Vaccinations, rumoured to be toxic, do not help.
An unreliable source blames chemtrails.
First, snow, so deep. That night, rain.
By morning the window – solid ice.
On the ground, black ice, invisible.
We could not step outside.
Next day, hail thuds onto the roof.
Hail, snow, a sound like falling corpses–
these are surely plague times.
Gobbling hoards turn Friday black,
as they swarm through shopping malls,
stampede for their white gods,
trample one another for plasma screens.
A firmament of LED glare and twinkle
of red and white lights thread highways
through the undarkened night.
The only visible stars are on the ground.
X DEATH OF FIRSTBORN
Floods destroy the power station.
Fish without scales, tumour-ridden,
cover the ocean to its farthest coast.
There will be no offspring.
XI PARTING OF WAVES
Red the ocean, gone the ice,
gone coastline. No more
trips to the seaside. No
sandcastles. No fish
to fry. No bargains
to buy. No creatures
to catch. No trees. No insects
to bite. No birds
to shoot. No property
to buy. No planes
to fly. No God
to part the waves.
Just burning bushes.
Plague Times: Shearsman (Issue 121/122)
Girl Golem: Tears in the Fence (No. 67)
Rewilding the Body: Riggwelter (Issue 18)