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Emma Kemp



the poet

Emma Kemp is from Coventry, where she runs the local Stanza of the Poetry Society. Her work has been published in journals including Transpositions, Ekstasis and The Rialto, as well as in anthologies such as the forthcoming Looking Out, Peering In from The Hedgehog Poetry Press.

the poems

A warning to myself
not to entertain your
preliminary advances

00:00 / 02:13

                        I buckle on the edge of myself, my

                        virtue, your passenger seat. Some

                        unholy unknown, taut between us.

                        Your skin is ash. The thin blue off

                        the instrument panel. My cheeks

                        flushed in the dark, keyed up.

                        You tell me that you are hard

                        as regards rejection, given to press

                        on in the face of defeat. I can

                        believe that. I can believe you would

                        impress yourself upon me. I can

                        believe you leave a mark.

                        Think back: you smothered your

                        self in plastic irony. Admit you

                        are untrue as Coventry blue. Admit

                        inside that plastic shell you are spring

                        loaded, a nichrome coil pressed hard

                        to a twelve-volt socket. On charge, not

                        blue but blaze red. You must know by

                        now I am bone dry as summer brush,

                        as tinder. Would you like me to tear

                        you out of yourself so you can enjoy

                        us destroy each other? I wonder. How

                        much fire it would take to separate

                        you into your fractions. Not a lot,

                        my dear, not while I am feeling all

                        prodigal. I could insist upon you, light

                        you up, draw down bitumen from

                        your contempt and naphtha from your

                        audacity. Perhaps we would get high

                        on what was left. I imagine that I

                        can distil you and live happily

                        alongside some residual fragile

                        goodness. You say I want better.

                        I say you want to forget

                        yourself. I suspect you already have.

                        I cannot take part in your

                        remembering. Know this: you do not

                        want me the way you think you do.

                        See here. I can unbuckle. I can exit.

                        I can take my dry bones

                        elsewhere. I can wish you very well.

A nichrome coil/twelve-volt socket was used

as a cigarette lighter in older cars.


00:00 / 00:47

                        Tell me, love, why we addle

                        ourselves in our search for truth,

                        when we know that all there is

                        is a heap of hastily shorn fleece

                        from which all the time we are

                        spinning? Fumble in the wool

                        and pull some out, rove between

                        your hands to form loose strands.

                        I will do the same. We will spin

                        from these rovings, at times alone,

                        at times together. And then we knit.

                        See how what takes form is neither

                        yours nor mine but defines us?

                        Forgive my dropped stitches; you may

                        have dropped a few, too. Please

                        do not hide yourself away and try to

                        knit from your own pattern. I am in it.


00:00 / 01:27

            You have seen that image of Thích Quảng Đức

            burning to death at a crossroads in Saigon

            and wondered at it. A mixture of knowing

            and incomprehension. That the human spirit

            can achieve self-mastery to the point

            of self-destruction.

            You have longed to sit cross-legged by the vast

            ocean, have it lick at you and carry you away;

            you have longed to become a symbol. A soup

            of sorrow and raging self-pity. That the human spirit

            can flare and burn out is a given, but you must

            pour water on the altar.

            You have stationed yourself on shingle and felt

            the insistent pain of every stone. You have waited

            for the tide to come in, and the tide has come. Every

            tide refusing to send you to the sea floor. The sea

            buoys you, dismisses you, light as flotsam

            returns you to the shore.

            You have felt the pang of the anticlimax. There

            is no one here watching; nothing has gathered

            around you. Your clothes are heavy with salt

            shame, streaming from you as you walk on,

            chilled, not shivering. To find what is next. You are

            rendered to yourself.

Publishing credits

All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb


S h a r e

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