‘Amy, how to write poems’ by Katherine Stansfield

Amy, how to write poems
for Amy McCauley again

in these times of boxes and unlearnt languages
and cats dreaming twitchyleg distress?

I do what the advice books say and write every day
but lately o lately my poems are just lists for leaving:

buy new cat carriers, microchip the cats,
tell the cats about THE MOVE.

The flats behind ours have been knocked down
yet no one will come for the rubble, the rusty washing

line poles. This could be an analogy for something
significant if I could remember what ‘analogy’

means and you know it’s hard to find anything
close to conceptualisation with all this aching

business of marks on the page – o – and what’s
the sodding point of poems anyway?

The cats wake up and I lie about the future.
They smell deceit, and because I can’t bear

their moans of betrayal I head into town,
into my regrets, where people are chalking

death on the hoardings of the unbuilt Tesco
and the wind wants to drag the best laid plans

out to sea. Plus ça Tuesday. I slalom
scaffolding to find you in the Italian deli

but lack lingo wherewithal to order your latte. Mi
dispiace
! Me, 100% linguistic black hole, and you,

expanding galaxy of words, you who are song,
guess piccolo is probably small – si! Prego. Bingo.

We discuss the Muses who never come round mine.
For all I know they’re in the ruin of the old flats

or haunting the cats’ dreams. For all I know
I know nothing. Not a coffee bean. Nada yada nada.

On the way out we talk cat stress when moving.
The good news is that your cat has recovered

from her trips on the train to Manchester
and when I get home I find half a shrew

on the stairs so I end the day thinking, bach,
things might be OK. In Italian this will be bene.
 
 
 
 

Katherine Stansfield’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, Magma, Planet, The Lonely Crowd, The Lighthouse, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Interpreter’s House, and her poem ‘Canada’ was Poem of the Week in The Guardian online. Her first collection, Playing House, was published by Seren in 2014, and last year she was awarded a writer’s bursary from Literature Wales to complete her second collection. After many years living on the west coast of Wales, which included a stint as a university lecturer, Katherine is currently travelling in North America until she runs out of cash (sadly imminent). Twitter: @K_Stansfield

Two poems by Amy McCauley

 
Avocado

It’s the most confidential fruit,
though it may not be a fruit at all.
This is the source of its delicious androgyny.

It will part with itself in ways we can’t.
The exterior self and interior self are compatible.
It behaves privately and makes a rich oil.

When the time comes it loosens,
a ripe piece of soap, clean and medicinal.
Its final word is the perfect stone.

(first published in The North (Issue 48: December 2011)
 
 
No, Mon Amour

My breast
(the right one)
shrinks inside its pouch.
It is pale,
toadhearted.
The lesser breast
suffers the most.
Poor relative
of the breast with the franchise,
specially commissioned theme tune
and gift shop.
How often people presume
that the agony of the breasts
is double!
No, mon amour.
While the left
is crushed and petted,
the orphan right
silently hungers.
The animal slopes
back to its room.
If only the scenario
weren’t so
laughable.
If only the left
didn’t swell
with each hard twist
of the nipple.

(first published in The Stinging Fly (October 2013)
 
 
Amy McCauley’s poetry has been widely published and in 2008 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Her current project involves reworking Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus as a collection of interlocking poems. She is studying for a PhD at Aberystwyth University, where she also teaches.