Quiet: the poet is taking the stage.
(Well, it’s not a stage, but a circle of bookshop carpet:
Shush, we won’t quibble.)
(As we said, we’ll go with it,
And anyway, female seems likely –
Can you see her now,
Her red lipstick, dangly earrings and brocade pumps?) –
Says all her poems are about things that
That the abstract smudge of the soft-bound book
Really represents her,
Says she’ll read an eerie poem called ‘The Sandman’ –
(Whose terrible voice is this?)
About her insomnia –
(Practically a given for a poet, you sneer)
And she begins with a clipped voice
About Sandman’s cruelty in her bed
About the piquancy of their shared sheets
About the skeleton finger of a voyeuristic moon
Who watches as they turn away from each other,
And the audience shift, sigh,
Steal a stealthy glance at the gilt clock;
A soft-soled shoe shuffles
And the poem is coming to an end –
(Her voice is harder, and, if you can’t hear it,
You can see there are seven lines left on the page).
But it is a surprising end
For she is both players in the poem,
And a man laughs
For she is speaking to you,
Whose terrible voice is this?
Holly Howitt is a writer and lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, where she leads the MA in Creative Writing. She has written a novella, a collection of micro fictions, and has edited several micro fiction and prose poetry anthologies. She has just completed a new literary novel, Beyond the Moon, and is finishing a collection of poetry.