Two poems by Natalya Anderson

Dinner Party

Father Clarke and Father Dempsey are wearing
matching hats. I’m on door duty. I pat Kitters
through a dark gap to the basement so he doesn’t rub
his mouth on people’s legs. He scratches; his paw
shakes the bottom corner of the door until he bursts
through. Reverend Pollock is here – she’s out of breath
because she had to park near the school. ‘Are your wretched
neighbours at it again?’ she wants to know, wiping her giant
chest with a hanky that Father Clarke takes from his shiny
pocket. Father Bidgood arrives laughing: ‘Why doesn’t your
mother let you grow your hair, for God’s sake?’ I have tied
Mom’s peach negligee around my head because it swings
like Jennifer’s yellow ponytail, which I fling with my pencil
during math class. Mom shouts, ‘She’ll get over it,’ from
the kitchen, where Baxter barks for ten minutes straight while
lobsters are in slow motion on the counter. Kitters whips his tail,
bats at the blue-banded claws until he’s elbowed off. Father Godfrey
throws a Triscuit in his mouth, says soon I’ll go cross-eyed, turns
the TV off. ‘Don’t tell your mother,’ he winks, slides a glossy
packet next to my knee. ‘I heard that; we’ll see if she eats her
dinner,’ Mom calls. When we’re done grace, soups, salads,
and I’m scraping shells into the garbage, I get a big laugh
when I say ‘I hate her new album!’ and they say ‘Not that Madonna.’
(shortlisted in the 2015 Bristol Poetry Prize)
The Woman In Clericals

In the hollow of my mother’s bed,
on flannel sheets she sprinkled with freesia-
scented talc, she rolls onto her side, leaves

an impression of warmth. I burrow
into her dented cocoon, reach out for her
body, listening for the rasp

of St Francis of Assisi carved with heavenly
creatures, dragging along her thick silver chain.
It stops, wedges between her breasts

to announce that she is rising. I follow,
disciplined by the sudden cold; fold
the sheets back over her creases. All day

I wait, thinking about her warm palms
underneath my toes, thumbs and fingers
wrapped around to meet each other.
Natalya Anderson is a writer and former ballet dancer from Toronto, Canada, currently based in Cambridge. She won first place at the 2014 Bridport Prize for her poem, ‘Clear Recent History.’ She is married to a very tall Irish man, and they have a three-year-old son. Twitter @AndersonNatalya