Rachael Clyne

© Jinny Fisher

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the poet

Rachael Clyne (she/her) has been published in journals including Tears in the Fence, Shearsman, The Rialto, Lighthouse and Ink Sweat & Tears. She's also had work anthologised in #MeToo: A Women's Poetry Anthology, Queer Writing for a Brave New World and Rebel Talk: Poems from the Climate Emergency. Her prize-winning collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, addresses our broken connection with nature – while her pamphlet, Girl Golem, explores her Jewish migrant heritage and sense of otherness.

the poems

Girl Golem

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            The night they blew life into her, she clung

            bat-like to the womb-wall. A girl golem,

            a late bonus, before the final egg dropped.

            She divided, multiplied, her hand-buds bloomed;

            her tail vanished into its coccyx and the lub-dub

            of her existence was bigger than her nascent head.


            She was made as a keep-watch,

            in case new nasties tried to take them away.

            The family called her chotchkele, their little cnadle,

            said she helped to make up for lost numbers –

            as if she could compensate for millions.


            With X-ray eyes, she saw she was trapped

            in a home for the deaf and blind, watched them

            blunder into each other’s neuroses. Her task,

            to hold up their world, be their assimilation ticket,

            find a nice boy and mazel tov – grandchildren!


            But she was a hotchpotch golem, a schmutter garment

            that would never fit, trying to find answers

            without a handbook. When she turned eighteen,

            she walked away, went in search of her own kind,

            tore their god from her mouth.

The golem legend is of a man made from clay and

Kabbalistic spells to protect Jews from persecution.

Rewilding the Body

Based on Isobella Tree’s account of

rewilding Knepp House Farm

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            The ribs of my country jut,
            its dreams gutted,

            hopes tilled to exhaustion.


            Fault lines exposed

            by monoculture expectation,

            by intensively farmed ambition.


            Let thistle stitch my wounds,

            as painted-lady caterpillars feast

            on the prickles.


            Let pigs unzip my paths

            with cracks for bastard toadflax

            and meadow-clary.


            Let ragwort flourish

            as one hundred and seventy-seven

            insect species thrive on its bad reputation.


            Let longhorn cattle tramp

            hoof-print pools for fairy shrimp,

            water crowfoot, stonewort.


            And one moonlit night – nightingales

            will return to fill my country

            with their song.

Plague Times

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                              At Passover, we dipped a finger into our wine.
                              We splashed a drop, for each plague named.
                                               We did not rejoice.


                                                      I  BLOOD


                                           On hands, in every breath,
                                               in gullet and gizzard,
                                                  in belly of whale,
                                            from every littered shore,
                                            we the seas incarnadine.


                                                      II  FROGS


                                      After ice-melt, I pulled three frogs,
                                    bloated and stinking, from the pond.
                                         Can we afford to lose them?
                                                 Slugs will flourish
                                              in this unlikely spring.


                                                       III  FLIES


                                                Feast on our flesh,
                                         they wriggle their fatted way,
                                     before winging to offshore havens,
                                         leaving us a humanless world.


                                                IV  WILD BEASTS


                                          In Chernobyl, wolf-law rules
                                            empty dachas, factories.
                                                Bears refill forests.
                                         Here, Adonis Blue butterflies
                                         will thrive on Salisbury Plain.
                                  Rats and dogs will shelter in car shells.


                                              V  CATTLE PLAGUE


                                     Play-barns with swings and muzak,
                                           and no place for chickens.
                                  Carousel feed-troughs rotate past cattle.
                               Pigs gaze through gratings at a crack of sky.


                                                     VI  BOILS


                                        This winter virus has no end.
                               The people cough their way into summer.
                           Vaccinations, rumoured to be toxic, do not help.
                                An unreliable source blames chemtrails.


                                                      VII  HAIL


                                   First, snow, so deep. That night, rain.
                                    By morning the window – solid ice.
                                    On the ground, black ice, invisible.
                                          We could not step outside.
                                     Next day, hail thuds onto the roof.
                                Hail, snow, a sound like falling corpses–
                                        these are surely plague times.


                                                 VIII  LOCUSTS


                                   Gobbling hoards turn Friday black,
                                as they swarm through shopping malls,
                                      stampede for their white gods,
                               trample one another for plasma screens.


                                                IX  DARKNESS


                                 A firmament of LED glare and twinkle
                               of red and white lights thread highways
                                      through the undarkened night.
                               The only visible stars are on the ground.


                                         X  DEATH OF FIRSTBORN


                                    Floods destroy the power station.
                                   Fish without scales, tumour-ridden,
                                  cover the ocean to its farthest coast.
                                        There will be no offspring.


                                         XI  PARTING OF WAVES


                                       Red the ocean, gone the ice,
                                         gone coastline. No more
                                          trips to the seaside. No
                                            sandcastles. No fish
                                             to fry. No bargains
                                             to buy. No creatures
                                     to catch. No trees. No insects
                                               to bite. No birds
                                           to shoot. No property
                                              to buy. No planes
                                                to fly. No God
                                               to part the waves.
                                             Just burning bushes.

Publishing credits

Plague Times: Shearsman (Issue 121/122)
Girl Golem: Tears in the Fence (No. 67)
Rewilding the Body: Riggwelter (Issue 18)