Clare Proctor

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the poet

Clare Proctor has had poetry in publications including Shooter, The North, The A3 Review and Finished Creatures and in Anthologies by Yaffle Press, The Frogmore Press and in the Handstand Press anthology of New Cumbrian Writing - This Place I Know. She came second place in the Canterbury Festival competition in 2018 and in the Ware competition 2021. She lives in Cumbria where she teaches English and is a member of Brewery Poets.

the poems

This Woman Wears a Green Dress

After Julian Cooper’s Bella Vista Hotel

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This woman stands in the doorway, wearing a green dress.

This woman wears a green dress, clenches her fingers.

This woman clenches her fingers – her nails make crevices

in the skin of her hand – this woman

makes empty crescents on her palm.

This woman is the body that makes a shadow

on the side of the bar. Her body

blocks the light trying to shuffle

through the door, through the window

stained with street dust.

This woman breathes in the bar-room smoke,

lets the clatter of an empty tequila glass fall

into the back of her mind,

lets its stickiness become salt, the salt

of the sea breeze that she senses

behind her eyes.

This woman sees nothing.

She is listening to the wind

crossing a far-off ocean.

Her green dress lifts in it.

On Falling in Love with Poets

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I have fallen in love with poets,

with the spaces they hold within them

like underground caves. I want to be

lowered into those caves with a head-torch,

reach my hands out to the walls,

scarred with their stories. I want to fall

into their voices, when they do not hesitate,

but resonate, like the deep note

of the viola. I love the idea

of falling in love with poets, and in love

with all that poets have loved;

with their moments of climax,

with their late-night tears,

with their unchosen words that slip

from their lips when angry or drunk or tired.

I want to fall for their suffering,

dip into it as if it is a well,

wash in its dark water.

I want to feel their pain, like splinters

stuck in the skin of my fingers.

I have fallen in love with the word – poet –

how the two soft syllables shape my mouth.

Sappho's Leap

After Felicia Hemans

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The women are ceaseless. The women are ceaseless as the waves. The women are ceaseless as their own echoing sighs. The only way for the women to be still as the sea-bird hovering on the death wind, is for the women to throw themselves from cliffs.

If the women want to jump from cliffs, they should dive in a perfect arc. The sun should be setting behind them or fingers of the dilated moon sifting over their bodies, the sea a molten silver. Their fragile forms should be the shape of a crescent as they dive, a flattering silhouette. The women can be gentle and sentimental or fierce and tragic, but at all times when jumping from cliffs, the women should be beautiful. Men may want to paint the women later.

The women should hurl themselves into the sea because their love is unrequited. Their unrequited love must not be for other women, but for a man/sea god. The women’s pain should be private unless they are jumping from a cliff; they should cry in a pitiful fashion, a few tears on the cheek subtle as pearls. They should avoid ugly crying, or they may not be a fitting subject for a painting.

The women should consider the weather, should pick a day that best fits their form and colouring. They should pair their outfit with the sun/moon/white cliffs. Their dress should flit around in the wind enough to expose bare legs and should cling enough in the rain/sea mist to delineate their breasts. The women should keep their hair long so that it can whip around their faces and stream behind them as they fall.

The women should fall in slow motion, over and over again, into the mind of the man/sea god. They should never land on the rocks, breaking their body and shattering their face, neither of which would reflect well on the man/sea god. Women who are planning on jumping from cliffs should check the tides.

Women jumping from cliffs should be recovered in one piece, their free dark hair pushed back from their pale faces, that should look at peace now that they can sleep forever in the unslumbering seas, dream about the man/sea god that they absolutely, definitely love.

Publishing credits

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