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Rennie Parker

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the poet

Born in West Yorkshire, Rennie Parker now lives and works in the East Midlands. Her first collection Secret Villages was published by Flambard Press in 2001 and featured in the 2002 Forward Prizes anthology. Since then, Rennie has published two collections with Shoestring Press: Candleshoe (2014) and The Complete Electric Artisan (2017). She's also published reviews and literary history, including The Georgian Poets (Northcote House/British Council, 1999).

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the poems

The Original Captain Boomerang's
Death-Defying Stunts

00:00 / 02:16

Ladies and gentlemen:
it's not the escape which sets me free
but the entire surrender. As always
there is no body double
and no apparatus,
the lumber and chock which keep you rooted there
will vanish, in a trice.

Released into that forgetfulness
holding my breath for another count of ten
I work my strategy out. 
You see, in practice
when engaged with any airtight fiendish device
it's no different to the Nailed-In-
Packing-Crate Mystery
or the Upside Down Barrel Plunge. 

It's a hard one this time.
Sir, you are amazed
I should survive these incredible feats. Let me tell you
it takes a special kind of person
to become a genuine fake. The simple fact is
I cannot be killed –
the crowd believes it's impossible
but I know everything is true.

We are always conjuring on the edge of death, ladies and gentlemen.
I have studied my subject and I know its ways.
There's no exit from that sealed casket.
I do not enter this compact lightly
and you have every reason to be afraid,
not on my account
but for yourselves, for wanting to see such blood.

You await the wrong turn, the failure 
of my dextrous digits,
the mistaken breath that loses me.
Perhaps it will happen tonight and you were there
when the great illusionist never returned
and you yourselves became history.

Well, we'll see.
Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you
as clean as a shelled egg.
There's nothing up my sleeves.
Let me show you how it's done:
three ...

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dreaming about the plenitude

00:00 / 01:38

a lifetime of holidays is killing them perfect
with the beautiful children, their artless arrangement:
their mothers, honed down like bone flutes,
that strain – or there, poised quite
like rare ikebana in the classical style
with five types of olives

or delicate at the piano perhaps or stuffing
pimientos with hand-reared lemongrass straight
from a double-page spread about interiors
or careless with artisan bread, 
the rich delivery promised: a husband 
ironic with stubble and rough linen
cool at his infinite desk, the blond wood and the textiles.

You know they're only pretending but it's so good 
at the grandstand window in a trendy cafe 
or crunching across wet pebbles as if in the moment
windswept thinking of lighthouses
yanking their dogs back and striding, the world mastered,

a flint-stuck cottage where everything happens
each startled blue summer, those indigo nightfalls
of laughter-echoing parties
the trug encrusted with warm earth
a descending line of wellingtons 
in their honey-dappled hallway, matted
with sea-grass and on-point architectural salvage.

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‘we will all sing hallelujah
in the river of time’

00:00 / 01:57

and we race past collections of backyard hens
the unadopted roads and spilled walls
those awkward bridges of blue-toned brick
each one with its engineer's number: and how
we smack underneath them one after another
as down the carriages heads are moving in rhythm
and polystyrene cups jog slightly
on the bolted-down granite-look tables –
oh unison and perfect synchronicity
I am riding with you on the train of all our hopes
the passion behind your newspapers
and your sweet contained heads –
you do not know where this pleasure is aimed
or what sent it flying, only
that the calm people are waiting
flipping their cards back and pages
or scrolling down to the next track
placing their new chestnut boots on the stained utility carpet,
turning over their books like heroes
safe in the knowledge that someone is waiting for them
and their clean shopping bags are being touched, slid,
with goods they've been looking for all year
and this was their afternoon
even here in the middle of November in the rain
as our train jinks leftright like an animal with an itch on its shoulder
as we swat into midlands cities and out the other side
with loose fields running away from us,
charred hedges scribbling into the distance
and the pinpoint lights coming on.

Publishing credits

The Original Captain Boomerang's Death-Defying Stunts:

  The Complete Electric Artisan (Shoestring Press)

dreaming about the plenitude / ‘we will all sing hallelujah

  in the river of time': exclusive first publication by iamb

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