Holly Peters is a Creative Writing PhD student at the University of Plymouth. She held the position of Plymouth’s Young City Laureate from 2019-2022, and had her poem Artificial Moons featured in the Moths to a Flame: Art and Energy Collective installation at the Glasgow Botanical Gardens during COP26. You’ll typically find Holly hiding somewhere between the covers of a book, or out walking her crazy spaniels, Dotty and Booby.
Building the River a Bed
a river skitters
in the dark
a lullaby’s shh
I take the first rock; it weighs the same as the peach pit
in my stomach. Clay rolls in the canyon of my palm,
squishing between fingers, then shuddering back to shape.
An audience of stones, I deliberate, the choice all mine.
nothing falls fast
in the waves,
for its final rest
The second breathes dust, hot to touch, singed syllables
filling my throat. You don’t have to ignore the craters:
use your nails and crack them open. The river shapes
beds from burdens: kneel down, whisper them gently.
as it swallows
Crumbling. I’d avoided the river for years – it no longer
able to relieve me – yet I still gather the third rock that slices
through the sand timer’s neck. The bank cuts into the hard
white behind my shins and I cry as I litter what’s left like ashes.
melt like they
there at all
The Bread Affair
Her teeth grind in time with the knife that slathers butter over his slice of bread. His dinner steams, fragrant with turmeric and all the time she has spent stewing over it. Not that he takes any notice. Whatever plate she presents him with – matsutake mushrooms, moose cheese, wagyu beef – his mouth waters only for the ample half-wheat bread. Her arrangement of lip-pink tulips has already been extracted from the table’s heart, so his bulging loaf can fill its centre. He takes his time massaging butter into the bread’s porcelain cheek. He cups his hand, its back arching, then spoons his dinner inside, letting the slice envelope it like skin. He chews it, mouth opening wide, tongue slopping. The crumbs cascade, shredded like the last slivers of her patience.
I Want to be a Forest
You won’t know which part of me
you hold in your hands: my lower lip,
a worn-down heel or knobbly elbow –
because it’ll look no different to dirt.
You’ll be given a watch-sized box filled
with two palmfuls of what’s left of me,
and even though I’m only saying it,
those flakes, like tree bark, are my heart.
All the rest, enough to fill a wheelbarrow,
will be mingled with the remains of others.
What was once kneecaps, earlobes, eyeballs
will become part of the damp woodland floor.
But in that forest, it will always be a part of me
you hold in your hands. It will be earth,
and worm food, a home for tentative tree roots,
a world unravelling in the planet of your palm.
All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb