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Deborah Harvey



the poet

Deborah Harvey lives in Bristol, UK. She is co-director of The Leaping Word, a poetry consultancy providing creative and editorial advice for writers, as well as qualified counselling support for artists exploring the personal in their work. Her poems have won prizes, been widely published and broadcast on Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Her sixth poetry collection, Love the Albatross, on the theme of estrangement, will be published by Indigo Dreams in autumn 2024.

the poems

When an albatross
crash-lands in a dream

00:00 / 00:43

Long ago I saw an albatross fly 

head-first into a dream so fast so 

hard it penetrated half a mile deep. 

Inside the crater 

a wreckage of feather and bone 

remains which over millennia became

this fossilised skull you’ve found and which 

slicing open my right forearm

you press into the wound

holding the edges until they knit. 

We’ll keep this for later, you tell me

we’ll talk about it then.

Just when you get
yourself out of
one labyrinth

00:00 / 01:46

you find you’re in another, in fact, you’re not only in it, you’re accidentally helping to build it & trapping your children inside with you where you can’t keep them safe, I know, what a ridiculous promise that was. It’s the exits that are entrances that are the problem, they’re so difficult to spot & since the story starts with you already inside, you’ll have to think backwards. Maybe it’s that stone staircase that tunnels down, getting narrower with each step, till you squeeze into a room with walls the colour of smokers’ lungs, bare lightbulbs & abandoned fridges, where the glass in the portholes is reinforced with grids of wire. Or perhaps it’s that chute you saw in the museum of a coastal town, or maybe it was London, anyhow, it’s the same neighbourhood where a serial killer’s operating by means of secret passages through cellars & the guide says of course we’re not going down there & gives you a shove & you find yourself wedged between brick walls, dangling over a long drop into nothing. Or perhaps it’s the aperture of a shell that's the whorl of your newborn’s ear & you’re clattering round & round its spiral steps, desperate to find them & bring them out & you run through rooms to get to rooms to get to the one room in the house you’d forgotten about, where the creature who was there all along steps from the darkness  &  turns  to  face  you, a  shape  in  the  mirror.

Your silence is all
I have left

00:00 / 01:32

so I’ll take it, make of it a field 

tucked in the gap between factory buildings 

and the railway embankment

with views over the floodplain to the river, the hills, 

the high cloud mountains of another, older country.

The shouting of jackdaws and rooks in the rookery

the endless drill of motorway traffic won’t break its surface

nor the bulldozers grazing farmland,

digging foundations for a future town 

beyond wood and common.

One day a sparrowhawk will come 

followed by rain that will wash the silence 

clean of hope   

and when I straighten up, stretch my arms, my back 

I’ll find I’ve become its hollowing oak, its fox-

trodden paths, the ditch, these stands of towering hogweed. 

By autumn I’ll be mist on a distant horizon

in winter I’ll lie down and turn to mud 

looking up at the shapes the night birds make 

against the dark.

Publishing credits

When an albatross crash-lands in a dream: Ink Sweat and Tears – April 2023 Pick of the Month

Just when you get yourself out of one labyrinth: Shortlisted for the 2023 Plough Prize

Highly Commended in the 2024 Slipstream Poetry Competition

Your silence is all I have left: Shortlisted for the 2023 Bridport Prize and runner-up in the 2023 Frosted Fire Single Poem Competition. Published in Frosted Fire’s online anthology, ‘Ticking Clock’:


S h a r e

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