Elisabeth Sennitt Clough
Elisabeth Sennitt Clough is the author of the 2017 Saboteur Awards Best Pamphlet winner Glass, and the editor of the Fenland Poetry Journal. Her debut collection Sightings won her the Michael Schmidt Award, while At or Below Sea Level was a 2019 Poetry Book Society Spring Recommendation. Elisabeth has also written The Cold Store and My Name is Abilene, which is shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Collection 2023. Elisabeth's poems have appeared in Poem, The Rialto, Mslexia, Wasafiri, Magma, The Cannon’s Mouth, Ambit and Stand among others.
There was a door
& then a door
Poem beginning with a line by Ocean Vuong
The second door was oak, brawny
with a heavy-duty handle & latch, the sort
that could mutilate a child’s hand if pushed
too much. This is how thresholds are reinforced
in farming country. Give your prayers to the sky.
The neighbours are out of earshot.
What could a flappy city girl know
about the ebb of backwaters? People here
read shotgun holes like exegesis.
Old mail piles up. All letterboxes are sealed shut.
Some days even the windows shudder.
Everyone’s forgotten the first door.
In a hardbacked book with charcoal-grey covers
in an attic, above a small bedroom,
next to an illustration, the error of a typeface
places a hole in a word, His terid,
so that it becomes owned. You are mine
says the pronoun to the beetle.
But the neglectful parent had let his terid go,
its skinny legs toddling beneath its round belly
in-between legs in crowded market places,
through garden fences to the edge-of-town
industrial estate and beyond – the place
where all lost things end up –
the Gymnasium of the Forgotten. There
his terid crouches on a varnished floor
at the end of a long wooden bench,
next to Arthur, who’s sat next to Tom,
willing someone to sight him, make a call
from the black telephone: Hello, Mr England,
we have located your terid, reported missing
and suspected extinct in 1936.
Please come and collect.
Like warlords, the neighbour’s firs cast darkness
across my lawn. So much in my garden
promised to blossom but never did.
A section of wasp nest dangles
from a tree like a slice of dried meat.
The splatter of an heirloom tomato
still decorates next door’s patio
beneath a sign: trespassers will be composted.
A wood pigeon repeats itself four times.
I mimic it twice. Sunday afternoon alone
in a rose-less garden, still in my nightie –
maybe I’m no longer alive, but don’t realise?
A motorbike engine growls out the miles
over cracked asphalt, past wheelie bins
stinking of yesterday’s burnt ends.
All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb