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Three Poems

Anna Selby

The First Time I Saw Your Winter

I rebranded snowdrops:

they became shame lilies,

juniper berries – Nordic furies,

leaves – luns: from the Old

meaning to let a breath

flee from idleness.

Your language

got more picasz, less hefda, more

shenikï. Each word became a wire

birds sprang from.


Your turn now.

Shoo. Stand in front of a mirror

not knowing you’ve been named.

It will be as if, for the first time ever

you’ve just seen yourself.



The Second Dance

after James Cousins’ duet, There We Have Been

I will lay my body on your body one day.

When I lay my body on your body it will be flat.

I will peel us together from the toes:

pack my calves onto your shins,

float your knees into my knees.

I will sit on you like an incongruous hound.

Neither of our bodies will be clothed. It will be deep winter.

Our bodies lit like opera singers

on a floor in a small wooden hut

hours away from the nearest city,

it’s a name crammed with xs and qs

that we write on paper, because when we say it

we feel inadequate. We will be realising

we don’t love each other,

but we haven’t told out bodies that

and our hands have made a spitting fire

that the buds of our knuckles unfold to.

Will we regret then this monster we made

or love again the strangeness of our shape –

our shadow flooding the ceiling, laughter

scuttling up into the woods as raucous bugs?



Dunwich Burning

‘The burning’ is a phrase used in Norfolk to describe phosphorescence

My accomplice stumbles away out of colour,

then stops at the edge abruptly, as if the sea

were a window that appeared in his house.

The ship-like buildings of midnight mount behind us:

moonset fugitives, two pilgrims wading into our silence.

We swim above a town they say sunk beneath us.

If the tide were low enough, the wind

would rush through the bell towers.

I turn back, skin crackling and could cry or sing,

shaking constellations from my hands. Stars slip

off my fingers, like scales from a fisherwoman’s knife.

We lay each other out in wet sand.

The waves extinguish themselves,

tug and resist bare feet, bare shins, bare skin.

And yes, the town might never have existed,

but even if you imagine it, it will lie

somewhere there before you. The legend

is still hauled from the depths, and there are hours

of fire left, and the sea is sinking in.

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