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Niki Strange

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the poet

A poet, workshop facilitator and academic who lives in Brighton, Niki Strange is the author of two pamphlets, Body Talk, 2022 (Flight of the Dragonfly Press) and the Stickleback XXXI, 2022 (Hedgehog Poetry Press). Her poems have been long listed for the Palette Poetry Sappho Prize (2022) and placed second in Sussex Poetry (2019) and Second Light Network (2021) competitions. She rediscovered poetry while undergoing cancer treatment in 2019, going on to secure Arts Council Funding to be Poet in Residence at Macmillan’s Horizon Centre and delivering 16 poetry workshops for people affected by cancer. She believes passionately in poetry’s power to support health and wellbeing.

the poems

‘Broken In’
(Sidcup 1985)

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We savoured stolen hours on the steps 

outside Lamorbey pool 

exercising nothing more than freedom.


It was there that two older boys

curtain-haired, reeking of Aramis and the horn

pulled us away to snog at The Glade.


I’d been tadpoling there with Mum

carrying home a trophy globe 

of darting promises to becoming more.


Soon after I found the jar full of drifting remnants;

the strongest had turned on their own.



Broken In Definition 1: Comfortable through habitual use or familiarity. Like a pair of well-worn shoes.

 

Not like party sandals stiffly box-fresh beneath torn tissue 

or pumps danced supple from lessons in the local hall 

Peggy’s ringed fingers clattered on the keys 

as we whirled through tendrils of her fag smoke and Harmony hairspray.

 

Not like finding my feet in those white stilettos

a tottering dressage of lengthened legs and raised arse

trotting not running.



Broken In Definition 2: Tamed or trained to obey like a horse broken to the saddle.

 

Ridden. Bidden.

 


Broken In Definition 3: To force entry into something.

 

Closed legs, underwear, no. 

Barriers breached by such brief and banal brutality

I never told anyone. 

I didn’t know how to speak it.


Broken In Definition 4: To cause a disruption in a conversation or discussion.


We learn not to do this.

We learn that when we do this 

we will not be heard.

We learn that when we do this 

we will be heard and not believed.


We learn that when we do this

we will be heard and believed 

but they will likely go unpunished.

 

The first time I heard 

the term Broken In

I was 14 by The Glade

with its cupped tadpoles

its slippery sticklebacks

as I was told this was 

becoming a woman.

First one gone

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One December our grief took us

out in search of a barren landscape.


Our car slid on ice

into deep snow

and came to rest.


Swaddled. Still.


Then engine coughing, straining.

Seeking traction against 

futile revolutions. Fruitless cycles.


Finally we were shifted 

by the forward momentum gifted 

from others passing by.


Their shoulders pressed 

to the cold metal as if 

armoured for battle.


This takes more than the two of us.

This takes more than the two of us.

I can write myself

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into an open top car,

careering on corniche roads

in the Cote d’Azur’s brûlée noon.


No factor 50,

for the facts of my melanoma 

are of little consequence.


All is shadow-less velocity.

I am heliotropic to the blazing sun,

lit up, let loose.


Letter by letter, 

I am matter transported.

Written reckless.


I can write myself 


sprung from a high board,

suspended in defiance 

of Earth’s pull,


my balance restored.

Lost nodes, radiated breast,

sleeved right arm


parts of this new entirety

that tucks, revolves

then plunges


as steel into the

quenching water.

Written stronger.

Publishing credits

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S h a r e

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