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Lesley James

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the poet

Lesley James is a writer from Wales whose debut poetry chapbook is A Walk With Scissors. She's been published in a range of literary magazines and anthologies, including BOLD, The Broken Spine, Full House Literary Mag and Spelt Magazine. She was shortlisted for a UK Very Short Story award by LoveReadingUK, and won Cardiff Writers’ Poetry, Flash and Article prizes in 2022-23. Lesley's words have also earned her two 2023 Best of the Net nominations.

the poems

Ways in which a cortado
can prompt existentialism
(No. 3)

00:00 / 01:09
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In the pastel Caffè Nero that used to be my bank, a man nudges a scuffed skirting board with his toe as he moves a chair. It falls off. I realise they’re all fake. Held on by silicone or No More Nails. 


What’s important is the impression. Never mind the feeling of concealment and being duped. The Doric pillars rise. But not very far.


What sits above the lowered ceiling, I ask a barista? Beyond the replicated coving? He shrugs and shakes his head behind the Perspex screen.


Bank clerks, no doubt. In a stately two-tone world. Greying and cobwebby.

You Don’t Know
What I’ve Done

With thanks to Rachel Long,

Caroline Bird and Arda Collins

00:00 / 01:02
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                    And they say that Polar bears are under threat,

                    but I saw them – one grey one beige –

                    shopping in Cardiff City Centre yesterday.

                                    I did one of Harry Styles’ tattoos –

                                    and they threw me out of art class 

                                    aged thirteen.

                    Lizzo chose me to be one of her Big Gurrl

                    Dancers, and I said

                    ‘No, bitch.’

                                    You don’t know what I’ve done.

                                    YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'VE DONE.

                    I invented squissors, scissory tongs

                    to squeeze the slop from cat food pouches

                    so you don’t get gunk all on your hands.

                    And you know that gunk, the cat food stuff that drips 

                    all on your hands … I’ve licked that.

                                    I chose an elderly guy –

                                    seventy-five – to fuck to end my marriage 

                                    – Yeah!

                    I stole the cat – that cat, the one who lives with me –

                    from his perfectly good home 

                    and made friends with his real mother.

                                   And I write it. I write it all.

                                   Like I’m writing us. Now.

Publishing credits

Ways in Which a Cortado Can Prompt Existentialism (No. 3):

  A Walk With Scissors (Infinity Books UK)

You Don’t Know What I’ve Done: exclusive first publication

  by iamb

In The Drag Queen Vegan Café: Full House Literary Magazine

  (Issue 2)

In The Drag Queen
Vegan Café

Ways in which a cortado

can prompt existentialism (No. 5)

00:00 / 02:05
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To unsheathe September’s lunaria seed from their waxy shields, you should first lick your fingertips. Take a single flat seed head between two fingers and a thumb, and make to snap your fingers. It falls apart. The crispy ovals flutter down. Catch the falling seeds. Some will jump away, and found the Honesty of two years’ time. Pearl lantern moons remain. 


On vanilla feet with toffee apple fur, the cat forgets we do this every year. He chases the papery housings like they are secrets I’ve been keeping from him, or his own free will. In darkness he practises sleeping round corners for when winter comes.


But for now, everything is drag-queen vegan café, Banksy in Port Talbot, Frida Kahlo on blue brick. The buddleia points tourmaline fingers at pigeon-blood cosmos wearing bee earrings (clip-ons). The wingbeats of overhead sparrows purr like flicked open fans. Last night’s massive bedroom moth (critch-critch) has laid eggs from her orange furry bum, and left the building. Everything is voluminous, daubed-on, lipstick smeared, waiting to die. 


An apple drops. The astilbe    is    still. 

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