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Elizabeth Barrett: a poem



And one day I couldn't bear it –

the way its thin tendrils trailed

through the trellis, twisting

and tangling, knotting the sky.

Its bitter berries were blank as the face

she wore to try me in those final weeks.

Don't shout, she'd mouth. You're so loud.

Her voice became a whisper.

I moved closer, straining to hear.

She switched to high-speed French,

words tumbling like honeysuckle

through trellis fence. I can see


through you I said.

I'd come clattering into the house,

a crown of branches balanced on my head,

honeysuckle falling from my arms. As I waltzed laughing

across the parquet floor

she gathered up her books without a word,

went upstairs. Our trajectories were in reverse.

She grew more serious,

absorbed by facts, while I played make-believe,

reclaimed my child in the weeks

before she left.

Now, bare-handed with blunt shears,


I hacked the honeysuckle down.

As the sky opened in squares of blue,

I remembered the day she used the last drops

of my Chévrefeuille to scent her hanky

while I was gone.

When I got home I threw down my hat,

kicked off my shoes, shrugged off my swing back coat.

When I turned around

she was staring into the mirror, dressed in

my clothes. They suit you, I told her. I hugged her,

inhaled a familiar scent.

You smell like my mummy, she said.

Elizabeth Barrett's poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies. She is the author of three collections: Walking on Tiptoe (Staple First Editions, 1998; re-issued by Bluechrome Press, 2007), The Bat Detector (Wrecking Ball Press, 2005) and A Dart of Green and Blue (Arc Publications, 2010). She has also been the recipient of various prizes including an Arts Council of England Writers' Award in 2000 and a Northern Writers' Award in 2018. She lives in Sheffield where she works as a University Lecturer in Education. "Honeysuckle" is taken from Elizabeth's current manuscript, Fall, for which she received a Northern Writers' Award in 2018.


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