Three poems by Geraldine Clarkson

(after that man ‘Lewis’)

Towards winter solstice, Alice
can no longer cope with groping down blind alleys,
being groped by creatures she doesn’t
comprehend, in places obscure
to her. She has issues
with size, this human yoyo, no permanence and issues
between her thighs, no liniments. No
malice. Just a sweet intrinsic no
to everything. A refusal
to go along. This long winternight
is ritual to her, good rich black
fostering. Freedom
from his wittering.

after Carolyn Forché

(I don’t lift my sweater I don’t show you
but where hair billows like tangleweed

a teal vein pulses)

I hitch my skirt above where the knee is

your skin is crushed walnuts your hair spilt orange paint
your eyes iron oxide smeared over screwed-up
to-do lists

the torn moon hangs on, by a thread
Glory be, says the mother—what you been doing in the blackberries, Missy. Your legs are—
I let hot jersey cover the mottle and burn

there’s rebel whistling between my teeth
as she holds slate to my face
picks a knife to prick her initials
into my jaw her breath
like reheated beans
as she tallies my sins
listens to the news later
her expert hands shaving flowers
for the feast—flying


I had a red silk cloth for a mother
three gold coins for a father
brothers and sisters were peas
in a pod. We lived at the end of a
stick. Dick was the name of the boy
who led us to fortune.

Geraldine Clarkson’s poems have been published in Poetry, The Poetry Review, and the inaugural Primers volume from Nine Arches Press. The three poems here were originally published in Poetry London, and subsequently in her pamphlets—Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament (smith|doorstop, 2016), which was a Laureate’s Choice, and Declare (Shearsman Books 2016), a PBS Pamphlet Choice.