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J L M Morton



the poet

Winner of the inaugural Laurie Lee Prize for Writing in 2022, J L M Morton is a writer and poet whose work has been published internationally in journals including The Poetry Review, The Rialto and most recently in the multidisciplinary ethnography Living With Water: Everyday encounters and liquid connections. Her latest book is Glos Mythos – a collaboration with satirist Emma Kernahan and illustrator Bill Jones. Her first full collection, Red Handed, will be published by Broken Sleep Books in 2024.

the poems

An Inheritance of Water

00:00 / 01:15

            When I die the chemical signature in my bones 

            will tell of Thames and Severn, Churn and Frome, 

            marrow of upland pastures, mill race and outflow.

            An ancestral line of dockers loading and unloading cargo. 

            A spring-fed apple tree that transpires deep in a valley

            sheds fruits that only wasps will feed on.

            And I want to close my ears to the endless sound 

            of buckets emptying and refilling on the wheel.

            Is this what we call beauty? Is this 

            a place my hand can hold, still reaching for the world?

            None of this is clean but it connects. Big enough 

            and continuous to contain all of our lives, our deaths

            are carried in my blood and breath is carried by water. 

            Rain is another name for love.

Life Cycle of the
Cochineal Beetle

‘ … it is worthwhile recalling that from the medieval era,

one of the colours most prized by the crown, church

and nobility in Europe for their finest fabrics

was that of carmine or deep crimson.’

~ Carlos Marichal Salinas ~

00:00 / 01:51

            An egg breaks on the pad of a prickly pear somewhere 

            in Oaxaca where the scale insects’ livid bodies 

            mass and crackle in the sun. Emerging, a crawler nymph

            clusters with the softness of her siblings 

            to feed in the downy blanket – explorers edging 

            to the brink of the known world. 

            Nymph throws out a long wisp of wax, 

            a thread to catch a ride on the wind, lifting and 

            landing on the terra incognita of a new cactus pad.


            Her claim is staked with a stab of her beak. 

            Cochineal sups the juices, sees off predators 

            – lacewings, ladybirds, ants – with the bright surprise 

            of her body. Fat, fierce and full of poison. She

            has detached her wings. Has no need of legs.

            Holding her colour quietly in trust – she waits 

            for the male to eat his fill, to mate and die. 

            Scraped away at ninety days, her body is laid out 

            and dried, then pulverised. Destined for dominion.

On Doubt /
A Pair of Blue Eyes

After Thomas Hardy

and Emma Gifford

00:00 / 01:16

                        Meeting changed our strata, 

                        the way only a storm at the edge 

                        of an ocean can do. 

                        The way a slump of salt water 

                        in a black cliff hole is a wet metronome 

                        for desire and regret. 

                        Blue milk sea and yellow gorse –

                        it is possible to be ambivalent 

                        and beautiful at the same time. 

                        Everything becomes an image 

                        of our disharmonic foldings. 

                        You hanging from the clifftop 

                        in search of my jewels. 

                        I should have guessed the houses 

                        were crappy behind the waterfront 

                        where the old lanes run deep, away 

                        from the wind, under the pines. 

                        Stacked tyres, fly-tipped white goods. 

                        We are here for this 

                        moment and we fuck

                        it up. Instead of making 

                        like gregarious worms 

                        in a world of Sabelleria reefs, 

                        honeycombed in our detritus.

Publishing credits

An Inheritance of Water: Raceme (Issue 13)

Life Cycle of the Cochineal Beetle (c.1788): Poetry Review

  (Vol. 112, Issue 4)

On Doubt / A Pair of Blue Eyes: Dust Poetry Magazine (Issue 9)


S h a r e

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