Joanna Nissel



the poet

Joanna Nissel was runner-up for the 2018 Poetry Business International New Poets Prize, Pick of the Month for Ink, Sweat, and Tears (July 2020), and won the 2020 Bangor Literary Journal Ekphrastic competition. She works as an organiser and facilitator of online literary events, including the Stay-at-Home! Literature Festival, Tears in the Fence Festival, and events with Paper Nations. Joanna’s debut poetry pamphlet, Guerrilla Brightenings, is forthcoming with Against the Grain Press.

the poems

Thoughts on Mothers’ Day 2020

00:00 / 01:23

                                                  This is not my first poem

                                                  about washing hands

Dad learned the spell     of lipid-based soaps

alcohol gel     cracked knuckle-skin

to enter Dave’s hospice room

festooned with cards     balloons

                                                  Did you know flower-water is so germ-ridden

                                                  it can be lethal?

Twenty years earlier     the diagnosis

then the fall down the stairs     cracked

his skull     The friend who found him

scrubbed her hands of his blood

                                                  The ritual of it     clutch of talismans

                                                  worn around the neck

without knowing if it would protect her

For Mothers’ Day     I sketched a bouquet

of spring     daffodils     bluebells     roses

hibiscus in biro     The last time I saw Dave

                                                  The groom's declaring

                                                  wickedness     laziness

his wedding     my 11th birthday

Buddha-bar-bling-themed ­     golds     fuchsia

lighting rigs from the boys at the Old Vic

They stopped the ensuing rave

                                                  February frost melting

                                                  against steamed windows

to bring me a cake with candles

that     when I blew on them

relit themselves     never went out.


00:00 / 01:23

She drops the word into conversation,

sprawling and red like unfurling fire lilies.

The audacity of it makes me stutter,

and she, comfortable and languid-limbed,

moves on to the next topic as if she hasn’t just

released the scent of raspberries and honeysuckle

into a rainy afternoon catch-up. Afterwards I wonder

if I’ve just seen a glimpse of the world as she sees it,

life in all its mundanities rippling across her taste buds:

simply delicious. I find myself mouthing the word,

revelling in the sibilance

so petal-soft it burns.

It's the Only Time I See Them

On coming out – Hove Lawns

00:00 / 01:08

the lesbian couple, joining me to amble the pebbles at dawn,

meandering the artery between one pier and the other.

They’re gone by the time light proliferates, turns the world

from fragile pinks, pale blues to brash cerulean and shamrock lawns,

and the promenade has filled with clots of joggers,

children with training wheels, shirtless beer bellies.

I can’t blame them, when sunrise offers us a clear stretch

of saturated sands, which shift underfoot like the texture of damp biscuits,

which thrum with ancient energies and offer fragments of shells,

whole ecosystems on the groynes, encrusted with mussels

until the walls resemble the puffed wings of preening crows

and the bright shallows under 7am sun overlap like scales.

This morning, three women waded in and, as the water broke

against their stomachs, they were Leo standing on the prow,

the horizon building in them, building,

until they released their screams.

Publishing credits

All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb

© original authors 2021

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