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Jo Bratten

the poet

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.

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the poems

Sunset Over Watford

00:00 / 00:52

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.

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00:00 / 00:57

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.

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After Us

00:00 / 00:53

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.

Publishing credits

Sunset Over Watford: Ambit
Amulet: The Mechanics’ Institute Review
After Us: Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal

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