Three Poems

Olivia Tuck


There’s something going on, says Grandma,
when the earth becomes a flan, frantic
to drink winter’s flood water, springing
grape hyacinths to dilate pupils. When the wind picks up
a persistent dry cough while ravaging
supermarket shelves with the blade of its hand.

There’s something going on, says Grandma,
when the sky swells and swells with a storm
it never delivers. When she takes her afternoon tea
Outside, and on her quarter-Spanish skin – which has always
worn sunrays as if they were sarongs – feels nothing
but a gathering burn, the grow-in-the-dark touch of a fever.

There’s something going on, says Grandma,
when my sister has a night terror for the first time
in fifteen years. When a streetlamp stammers
at the screams shining, knife-white, off the walls.
When the lullaby is a minim sharp.
When, although Outside is clear, we can’t find a star to clutch.

Menstruating During a Pandemic

On Moon-day, you poured
grenadine into your bath, to sink.
You searched your bedlinen for your missing

ovule – it was as big as a depression
left in paper by a pencil jumping en pointe –
but you’d dropped your microscope

that morning when hunting the virus down,
and your head ached with your hands’ reek
of Dettol. When driving past the hospital,

you and your mother saw a refrigeration unit,
lung-white against a forklift’s back, hauled
through an empty outpatients’ car park. You cried

for those who would lie in it, but had you
spent that afternoon in your garden,
you’d have wept for every dandelion clock

liberating its seeds to westerly wind. Your home
has become a bunker. Last night, you were hiding,
waiting for each thunderclap to distance itself

from its neighbour. July waits beyond the end
of the cul-de-sac, the footbridge,
the nettle-logged path, the bitumen-dark brook,

and what falls from you has somehow paled
to rose water, to pink Moscato,
for now. Who knows?

There might not be a second storm.
Hope is a barely-dilated cervix;
a foxglove’s open mouths.

Look, how they rub their hands

This poem takes lines from Lady Macbeth’s famous sleepwalking scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

what need we fear who knows it

we run home via the weir
the setting sun’s breath on our neck napes
a stile presses splinters into our fingertips
we lift the front door’s latch
our kitchen sink is a cauldron of suds

a little water clears us

beyond the window
the sky is willow-pattern blue
and empty
through bracken and thorns
this full moon is a jilted bride
a veil of smoke over her face
we turn to find
the fajitas burned
the internet down
and the television flickering its mosquito buzz

wash your hands put on your nightgown

some say if we had
locked the gate before we heard a knocking
we would be waking now
with unspoiled sun on our cheeks
we would be boarding brimming trains to work
we would not jump at the jolt of a cough in the office
we would go to gigs or to the theatre
having been to the shadow-warm pub
we would be loving
the congregation the host the pride of faces
we would be kissing our grandparents
we would be fucking strangers

look not so pale

digits rise like oceans
the uncounted die holily in their beds

what’s done cannot be undone

I hold my palms up to the disintegrating light
they are laced with blisters

they are drier than the moon’s seas

will these hands ne’er be clean?

Olivia Tuck is a Creative Writing undergraduate at Bath Spa University. Her pamphlet, Things Only Borderlines Know, is out now with Black Rabbit Press. Find her on Twitter: @livtuckwrites 

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Kathryn Green
2 years ago

These poems are powerful and poignant

Hannah Stone
Hannah Stone
2 years ago

Wonderful poems, Olivia – I really enjoyed these.

Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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