© Jeanette Mullins
Hailing from a northern working-class background but living now in ramshackle social housing in Devon, Hannah Linden has had her poetry published in Acumen, Lighthouse, Magma, New Welsh Review, Tears in the Fence, Under the Radar and elsewhere. She won the Cafe Writers Poetry Competition in 2021, and was highly commended in the Wales Poetry Award 2021. Hannah's debut pamphlet is The Beautiful Open Sky, and she's currently working towards her first full poetry collection.
What the Wind Said
There’s no doubt I was already buried. I was
prone and silent so it’s no surprise people
talked about me in the third person. I was
the family problem—the musty smell
from a corner, the already gone but lingering.
I did everything underground. Even my thinking
was hidden from me. Up would come an idea—
a fruit that was perhaps poisonous. I didn’t know
how to trust anything. I felt the rooms of me
become caves half full of water, somewhere, somewhere.
My body was a disconnect. I was blind and deaf.
Threads of me stretched thin, deep below the family carpet.
I wanted to be gone, threw spores to the wind—
tiny pieces of conversation seeking release,
some lichen-yearn escape from a spent flower burst.
There was no romance in it, no fairytale quest.
I was turning myself into nothing, drifting on thin air.
I don’t know who whispered onto a breeze the direction
to a crack in the pavement. It was a small thing, small
kindness, like I was alive—like I should be alive.
She said HE had packed my things,
boxes stacked under the stairs,
ready for the off. I tasted nothing
of the reconciliation supper, the too-
light chatter of my brothers, my sister's
over-long hug as we whispered goodbye.
But I felt Mum's silence in the car,
the negative pull until I was a black hole
sucking everything into my void,
except her. She sat on the edge of Nan's
spare bed. You will never come home again.
I am a half-circle. I am an apple falling
from the tree. When she left, I slit open the boxes
to search for my overall: my dead dad's shirt,
the hold of his undying smell.
My step-father had thrown away
this rag of him—the remnant Dad gave me
for when there’s dirty work to do.
How he'd kept me clean. I roll up my sleeves,
remember bare arms, tattoos he'd regretted—
it's my skin being bloodied now.
When I first climbed out it was simply the absence of him.
Then the absence of pain in the shoulders that I hadn’t known was
connected to him, like shadows are.
Then a ladder started to form, simple steps
like noticing I enjoyed the sound of a ticking clock.
Or being able to turn over in bed, turn on a lamp to read,
or open the curtains to the moon.
Ladders of light are not a form of magic. Sometimes
they are silence in a room that is not always aware of the sounds
I wasn’t used to climbing, the muscles in my legs weary
from lack of use. Resting on a ladder of light takes practice.
I made some of the rungs into ledges. Rested
with my children. Sometimes it’s best not to look back
or try to calculate how far there is left to climb.
In the hollows at the back of the rock face,
pressed hard into the surface, the imprint
of women’s fingers, more felt than visible,
waiting to be found.
What the Wind Said / Light: exclusive first publication by iamb
The Fight: The Beautiful Open Sky (V. Press)