Two poems by Jessica Mookherjee

The Liar

I never believed in Father Christmas
as I crawled out of the chimney, soot-stained,
ingrained dust in the whorls of my skin.

I never feared the dark, crawled under my bed,
talking to dust, moulding it into imaginary friends.
We sang together to the soil.

Suspicious of prayers to invisible gods, I stared
at vicars and asked them who would go to hell,
whether they worshipped thunder.

I found runes in churches and muttered spells
in graveyards, climbed into yew trees,
licking insects from bark.

I saw adults spin, catching flies, never saw bogey-men
lurking in woods or under bridges.
I crawled from moss-damp ponds dripping with slime.

No-one believed me when I told them
where I went at night, under those trees,
inside badger holes, curled up with fox cubs.

Teachers and parents told me to tell the truth,
scrubbed the earth from under my nails with wire,
called me a liar, washed my mouth with soap.

(published in Prole – Autumn 2015)
The Milk

There are no daffodils in Bengal,
so my mother had no idea why I wore one,
it was the ladies that fed me welsh cakes
who told me why
I wore a black hat on
St David’s Day.
Dewi Sant, I wasn’t sure
who he was, but
I thought I heard him in the
waves off the Mumbles head.

I had no grandmothers here,
just the mamgus on the bus.
Those crinkled Bridget’s were my wet-nurses,
feeding me chewing gum, peppermints and
their native tongue.

Those old ladies fed me stories
of frost covered forests
and Bendigeidfran.
They were my milk.
It’s comin’ in, see
they said – with an eye on the wind,
come pray with us…
I went to their chapel, where the wood is worshiped
and where they had me believe
that the desert Bible lands were in the mountains
of North Wales.
(published in Tears in the Fence, 2016)
Jessica Mookherjee is a poet with Bengali heritage, who grew up in Swansea and now lives in Kent. She has a background in Biological Anthropology and works in Public Health. She has had poetry recently published in Under the Radar, Tears in the Fence, The High Windows, South, The Interpreter’s House, Prole among many others. She has been selected to be in the Templar anthology 2016 and Eyewear’s Anthology of Best New British and Irish Poets 2017. Her pamphlet The Swell is published by Telltale Press. Twitter @jessmkrjy