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Ali Whitelock: a poem

love in the time of celery

i always imagined my yellow brick road would lead me

to a future, if not emerald, at least the colour of pale celery.

over time the rich yolk of my bricks faded & turned to

what dulux might call malnourished eggshell. i met &

married a migrant who cleaned bricks for a living. fifty

dollars for every thousand bricks cleaned. sometimes

he'd bring home a couple & keep them on his desk. i was

too much of a cunt to see what it was he was really trying

to say. he came to this country with no inglés, pas

d’anglais, ich spreche kein englisch. with time he taught

me how to be kind in three different languages, flooded

my parched landscape with desert peas. through him

I discovered the heart of a shrimp is located in its head,

that otters hold hands to stop drifting apart in the sea,

that cows produce the most milk listening to everybody hurts.

after months teaching himself english he got a new job

cleaning out stables. when they asked how much english

he could speak he oozed his answer with all the ripeness

of a french camembert, "not zo much, but ze horseez also

zay are not speakeeng ze eeenglish eizer". after the

stables he got a job cooking in a french restaurant when

it was still compulsory to smoke in the kitchen. at home

he continued to keep two bricks on his desk at all times.

eventually he gave in to my nagging to replace them with

an objet d'art that matched the curtains and pleased me

more. we went shopping & bought some thing from a

shop that meant no-thing. a statue of a woman wearing a

crown, the torch in her right hand casting shadows that

turned the room the colour of malnourished eggshell.

give me your tired, she seemed to say, your shrimps &

your curtains. give me your bricks, yearning to breathe


Ali Whitelock is a Scottish poet/writer living in Australia. Her latest collection, The lactic acid in the calves of your despair, is published by Wakefield Press, Adelaide and her debut, And my heart crumples like a coke can (also Wakefield Press), is soon to be published in the UK by Polygon, Edinburgh. Her memoir, Poking seaweed with a stick and running away from the smell, was launched at the Sydney Writers Festival to critical acclaim in Australia and the UK. 

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