Jo Bratten writes and teaches in London, but was raised off-grid on a farm in Ohio’s rust belt. She moved to the UK to study at the University of St Andrews, where she completed a PhD on the modern novel. Her poetry has appeared in Ambit, Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter's House, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Ink Sweat & Tears and elsewhere. Jo is working on both her first pamphlet, and a novel about cicadas.
Sunset Over Watford
I am not terribly good at love. Yet
I begin to think I could be, if love
is loving small things: the moment when
the second magpie lurches across the path;
or the girl in the purple coat running
towards the dog she doesn’t know; old men
on the bench with sandwiches in the rain;
the back of your neck; breathing you in quick,
thick gulps, like cold water after bedtime;
the smell of dying daffodils that still
strain to hold their heads bravely towards
the February sun as it sets over
Uxbridge, Ruislip, Pinner, Hatch End, Watford –
all bright and glittering in the smoky air.
In these times we tighten, fasten locks
like lips, stockpile pills, believe
our own haptic power to summon
the fever-gods, draw blood to rub
across the lintel, into apotropaic
scratches cut into doors and walls.
You touch me like a mezuzah, hang me
by your heart, an omamori, a scapular,
a locketed caul; hold me on your lips
a cicada of jade, in your pocket like
a hare’s foot, a whelk’s shell; I circle
you like hag stones, word you a breverl:
the skies are quieter, clean; a blackbird
pauses, tilts her head, builds a nest.
When the floods clear what will be left, washed up
at our gate or lodged between the polite
paving stones along our tree-lined road?
Other people’s newspapers, bags for life,
little rusted badges with an old slogan,
lost socks and dreams, righteous anger bloated
like a dead rat, effluent thoughts and prayers
sludged blackly across our doormat’s smiling
welcome; bits of ourselves we’d cut away
and scattered in the river as fish food
stuck now on the stern brick of our house,
obscene in their pinkness, puckered
like little sucking mouths, trying to get
back in where it is so warm and so dry.