Three poems by Lamorna Elmer


We’re sitting on a park bench
comparing slacks and loafers (ankles).
The coffee’s black, obviously, and Jennifer says
You just don’t get this kind of life if you live
South of the river. We all turn up our noses.
Do you look like a pig or a bat? We agreed
it was far better to be a bat. I wanted to tell them
that in Chinese culture the pig symbolises happiness
and prosperity, but the conversation wrestled ahead
without me. Celine was saying she’d had the best
customer service at the Clarins counter,
but how could that lady work in such an image-fuelled
environment? She was kinda, big. She said,
whispering and opening her hands in an imaginary
cat’s cradle. We were in recovery.
The meetings were forbidden in case we got jealous
and pushed each other into the river. For so long
I wanted to feel part of something.
I told the truth in therapy, that the bagel
didn’t offend me, and this kept me there longer.
Sometimes, in bed, I hug my pillow and whisper
to myself: recovery, recovery, recovery.
(published in Stop Sharpening Your Knives 5)

My fortune showed a kooky Christian name meant for a fishing boat, home-schooling and a mother obsessed with constellations, always reading things upside-down and holding up mirrors. Our photo albums are full of pictures of me with white triangles reflected in my eyes like manga cartoons. And spilling-over tears. I worshipped N*sync, not Canis Major and The Hanged Man. Crawling behind the sofa to retrieve lost crystals, I’d come back out to find other adults who looked like Ariel, each claiming to be my fairy godmother and giving me fridge magnets with cats on. They turned up randomly each year, their arrivals half crazed, half comforting, like a horse’s tooth-baring whinny.

Finally, in my seventh year, mother said we were going to Sirius. I cocked my head at the mention of the dog star, pondering rocket/death/rocket/death, looking for signs of swooning in her eyes. In the dark of the next morning as I watched the test card on TV as she clasped my hands and whispered, showing me pictures of quarries in moonlight: I saw what it was to be star-struck. We forget that half-crazy is only half crazy, I thought, my mouth full of cards.
(published in The Moth magazine)

The boy built the bridge with just his hands. Behind my ear, his touch felt like too-early summer: this is all I remember about him. Now, I build him with my hands. To sculpt another person is to sculpt yourself, I think. The boy does not have this thought in his head. I twist his nipples into peaks, between hot finger and thumb. Without me, he would not exist. I tell this to him, his eyes grey as the landscape smearing the window. Sometimes I let him speak. He tells the stock stories: of his father the salt merchant, zealous eyes and beaten skin; of his Inuit grandmother, watching television in clothes turned inside-out; about the night spent beneath a bridge with a strange girl. I hang him from this bridge, and/or show him the rope burns crossing my palms.
(published in Poetry Wales)
Lamorna Elmer lives in London and works as a book publicist. Her poems have been published in magazines and anthologies such as Poetry Wales, Ambit, Stop Sharpening Your Knives, The Oxfam Book of Young Poets, and she is currently working on a pamphlet. Follow her on Twitter @LamornaElmer.