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Liam Bates



the poet

Liam Bates is a poet originally from the Black Country now living in Lancashire. His poems have appeared in publications including Ambit, Bath Magg, Magma and more, and have been translated into Spanish and Latvian. In 2023 he won a Northern Writers’ Award for ongoing work. His first two pamphlets are available from Broken Sleep Books, along with his full-length debut, Human Townsperson.

the poems

The Agency

00:00 / 01:20

I ate the mushroom

growing on the wall of the downstairs toilet

in the house we rent. I folded

a thick slice of brown bread around it

and gobbled the lot raw. They might try

charging us extra at the end of our tenancy

because the mushroom wasn’t meant for us.

But in their assessment, what is? See

what I have in my hands. It’s nothing.

See it moving. Like devotees

bowing round a colourful altar.

They forbid us painting over the white

but I painted anyway on the white

of the sink with the rainbow

of my vomit. I am

thirteen again. I am hovering

a foot above the ground like a god. They don’t want us

skating on their office block steps as if

the concrete isn’t there for us. Smooth

as a dream of endless falling. Shouting

watchmen emerging to shoo us off the premises.

What are they thinking,

that they can contain this? It’s only

my folded arms holding me together.

If I raise my hands towards the sky,

so bright and boundless I ache,

a thousand canaries will take flight.


00:00 / 00:37

This again—my student has crammed

his pockets with gravel and

cannonballed into the reservoir.

Sopping, and cold as a milestone

on the bank, I take his word

this isn’t about suicidal thoughts,

he saw the tell-tale green and gold

of treasure blinking on the bed

and isn’t that what we’re doing here?

Sure, but wouldn’t growing gills

be covered during induction

if that was all it took? Tomorrow,

I’ll pull him from a different waterbody.

We’ll sit in the sun getting warmer.

Open Wide,
a Little Wider

00:00 / 01:09

We were misled

by a sat nav quirk, the circle

sun at an unexpected inclination.

The country’s vestigial tail,

you dubbed this snaking

A Road. Still inevitably

a wealth of luxury cars on hand

ready to elbow by, tinted window

undertakers, cutting us up and getting

a mouthful: cunt, do your indicators not work

or are we invisible? The final word flashing

in their rear-view. And then we turned a corner

and on the hill opposite was a line

of houses, a familiar-seeming close

in a town we’d never been. You said,

Who do you think lives there?

and I knew then someone

must, a street of someones, each

with their own purposeful face. I had

to chew on it in a lay-by: the abundance,

it won’t all fit in my head. But

that’s the thing, you said, it doesn’t have to.

Publishing credits


S h a r e

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