“Clutch” and other poems by JLM Morton


without her, his gut
is like a hag stone at high water
craving for the sea



For weeks I pass the affair, on the turn
from common tarmac to unclassified track,
where shorthorns lap at the galvanised trough,
gliders rise on the ivied beech.

A people carrier parks in the lay-by
limestone creamed to the mudguards, the wheels,
the egg of his head tips back on the rest
his jaw goes slack and weak.

Dark forms heave as she takes him,
he takes her, they take. Two days a week
I pass, imagine her perfumed, well-groomed,
knitwear with no trace of lint.

Her hair glints in the weak winter sun –
he tweaks at the mirror and he gives,
she gives,
they give. Each week.

It isn’t love she feels.
I can tell by the bridge of her back,
how her body arcs over the gearstick,
reaches those thighs where his hands lay flat.

For weeks, they’ve an air of wilful oblivion,
unaware of that spacious interior,
how visible their mundane lust         how exposed

the tiny football scarf suckered to the window.


First Earlies

The first, still sun we’ve had for days
and we bathe in it, incredulous –
me with our babe in arms, he with our first in hand.
Dazed, we survey the storm-swept borders
scan the allotted land for harvest.

Potatoes! We fall on them, finger rake the moist warm loam
for tubers, swiping their luminous skins with our thumbs.
Our eldest gasps and utters streams of sound with infant joy.

We stop, we stand.

We breathe.

We smell the petrichor,
watch as she turns up spuds like her newest words:
a vegetable lexicon tumbling over the stones.

First Earlies was originally published by Yew Tree Press, 2019.


for h.l.

in the nest of my fist, a fledgling
scooped up from the lane

her soft unfinished beak
her shining eye
a buoy ringing in the green cathedral of trees

a single yellow feather wisps across my knuckle
there is a twitch of elephant digits

and I think about keeping her

raising her as my own
feeding her worms

but I let her go

chirring for the ones I could not save.


Oil on Canvas

In the chiaroscuro of her eyes there are deserts and swamp forests,
escarpments, flats of salt and vistas beyond the folds of flesh
soldered shut by surgical birth, the liverish scars gone waxy white.
There are palimpsests of palms upon her palms – the weens, the work fucks,
the women who took her last yuan for tapestries and hair combs on the mountain.
Whirlpools are quarried to embers in the clotted scumbling of her gut –
her conduct rendered now with prudent strokes of fat over lean.
But the song inside her head is still stuck
on her alla prima approach to relationships       I hate you
the rasping of a parent’s dying breath         go well, I love you –
held on the impasto of her lips, the anatomy of her dancing feet.


Good Girl

Her climb was perpetual, summit after summit,
scrambling over fissile shale, porous as swaddling,
sick with altitude. The air thinned, cymbaling her chest
like a mechanical monkey – but she was gut-tugged
through parting cloud, a full blue line, taut and expectant.

At last, she found it on a mountain top, half-submerged
beneath a cairn of stones –stacked, matt, pale and sheen –
a liverish disc, gritty to touch. Meat-heavy. Such
tightly woven cotyledons of villi, veins and blood,
the deciduous matter of family lore.

She did not flinch when hefting this foundation stone
into the nave of her life. Did not see its feathers
at her neck, crushing her spine with the weight of itself
until her fingertips revealed the words carved in:
daughter, brother, uncle, a mother’s mother’s gift.

Kneeling at the shore she hacked the cord with granite
until her knuckles showed, unloading on the salt, swell, source.

Clutch and other poems are © JLM Morton


JLM Morton lives in Gloucestershire, England, snatching as much time as she can to write between caring for a young family, renovating a house and staring up the barrel of a demanding day job. Her first set of poems was recently published by Yew Tree Press for the Stroud Poets Series and she is currently working on a collection.

Website: jlmmorton.com

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