‘Following the River Exe on a Wednesday Afternoon’ and other poems by Kate Garrett

Granny Woman

The men leave us be; at times
like this they take themselves
out to the porch with pipes
and tin cups. Everyone trusts

the granny woman. She knows
best, walks for miles when
there’s a baby coming, brings
her bag along. The bottles

of green-smelling whiskey,
fat leaves smooth and big
as her hand, rolled into jars,
rattle next to mud bases

for the poultice. She eases
the pains away, welcomes
every life into the wild world,
soothes swollen breasts so new

young ones can feed. Now and then
she brews up roots and stems
for some silly girl with a problem.
I’d say the men on the porch

never know much about that.
Some must believe they’re lucky.
They never say anyhow. They don’t see
what we see: the other side

of the granny woman, when she
doesn’t bring joy, calm and a blessing,
when she carries pain in her bag,
cramps, red blood, and a flat relief.


*Until the middle of the 20th century, it was typical for rural communities in the southern Appalachian region of the USA to include “granny women”. One role of these women was to act as midwives, using knowledge of folk remedies to assist in childbirth, and significantly but less extensively, with terminations and contraception. My great-grandmother was one of them, and granny magic/granny witchcraft is still practised today.

*This poem was first published in the anthology The Chronicles of Eve (Paper Swans Press, 2016)


Meeting Tink in a bar in Heaven

(for Tara)

When I sleep, she still exists.

Her face peach-bright
and more than just a pinch of skin.

My friend is a tattooed hologram who hugs
me tight and tells me she’s glad to see me

and how she’s sorry I can’t be a bridesmaid
as her wedding won’t be going ahead.

I won’t tell her when she left he changed his mind.
Most people do, when you go the way she did.

And she says she can’t wait for my wedding,
her corset is laced and her boots are shined.

She’s bringing her favourite lover, a leather-and-tartan
skirted sprite, curved in at the waist and out at the hip;

this one makes her feel more alive than ever.

I’ve been here all this time, she says, as music
blasts through black-light clouds – not a harp in sight –

and tells me how I’d love her new friends
because they are absolute angels.

*This poem was first published at Clear Poetry, and in Kate’s pamphlet You’ve never seen a doomsday like it (Indigo Dreams, 2017)


Following the River Exe on a Wednesday afternoon

My son fixates on sailboats.
We both dream of riding the currents

out to open sea, so we breathe
in midday shadows, meditating
on the shimmer of the aqua
air. I tap his temples, wisp lavender

under his nose; I hold his hand
until he finds his peace. We walk
along the pavement, heading east.
This is not like our river: tamed

by industry, churned with purpose.
This river remembers smugglers,
the density of salt.

The boy tilts his head,
squints and smiles, while the pale sun turns
blue waves to a shiver.

*This poem was first published at Clear Poetry, and in Kate’s pamphlet The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams, 2016).


The names of things unseen

for Ethan

You discover new spots on our adventures:
Abergele, Deganwy, Prestatyn, Colwyn Bay,
Betws-y-Coed, Llandudno Pier, Conwy Castle.
You and your brothers – pirates and knights –
duelling, peering into dungeons, or racing
to the edge of the jellyfish-dotted sea.

You pack your bag, almost overflowing:
a boomerang, a hacky sack, a water gun
shaped like a shark, an eye-patch and wooden swords,
bunched into place with books, knitting,
paper, pens (for the rainy days),
and a candle, painted in wax with your name.

Your friends teach you bits of an ancient tongue:
trenau, gwylan, “pen, ysgwyddau, coesau, traed”,
then you explore my dictionary to find
the names of things unseen, but read, and dreamed –
tylwyth teg, môr-forwyn, coblyn, draig –
wrap words like cowry shells to take back home.

*This poem was first published at And Other Poems, and in Kate’s pamphlet The names of things unseen (one-sixth of Caboodle published by Prolebooks, 2015).



She and I did our best with what we had,
spent years hunched in flea-dirt fur,
unlearned the cadence of our voices.

She and I understood emptying bins
of apple cores, ‘leave it for the cleaner’
among echoes of twinsets and ties.

She and I hid our black eyeliner, tubes
of Red 107 lipstick, silver dresses—wore
them on gloom-heavy Sundays, alone.

She and I married a second-rate prince
who watched us through the keyhole,
enchanted by bare feet, wet lips.

She and I crouch beneath long shadows
expecting a father who won’t stay gone—
bellies full of venison, hands gripping stone.

*This poem was first published in Dying Dahlia Review, and in Kate’s pamphlet Losing interest in the sound of petrichor (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2018)



for Gráinne Ní Mháille

The gossips claim there’s power
in her long red locks,

but she wants to swing a sword
and feel the earth roll away
beneath her feet.

‘You’ll meet your death, girl,’ her father
says, ‘those waves of hair will catch

in the wheel, in the rigging, and break
your sweet pale neck.’ But there’s no fear

in her, our saving grace.
She pulls the knife
from its place beneath her cloaks,

drags it across the plaited red gold
and meets her fate above the coastal

rocks as she drops dead scarlet rope
into the sea: she is less of a girl.

She will become our Queen.

*This poem was first published in The Copperfield Review, and in Kate’s pamphlet Deadly, Delicate (Picaroon Poetry, 2016).

Kate Garrett is a writer and editor. She is the founding/managing editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, Lonesome October Lit, and the charity webzine and anthology Bonnie’s Crew. Her own poetry has been widely published, nominated for a Pushcart Prize and longlisted for a Saboteur Award, and she is the author of several pamphlets: most recently You’ve never seen a doomsday like it (Indigo Dreams, 2017) and Losing interest in the sound of petrichor (The Black Light Engine Room, 2018). Kate was born in southern Ohio, but moved to the UK in 1999, where she still lives in Sheffield with her husband, five children, and a sleepy cat.

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