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EXTRACT: Poetry from Pit Lullabies by Jessica Traynor


Our extract this week consists of two incredibly moving poems from Pit Lullabies by Jessica Traynor


If You Can Tame a Wildcat, You Can Raise a Baby

Lesson One

You have no shared contexts –
forget sentimentality.
The child recognises you
as a fox on a winter’s night
hears the owl shriek above it.

Lesson Two

Now you have accepted
you have no shared context,
we should admit one –
the seeking of pattern.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
until threat becomes comfort.

Lesson Three

Like any animal, this child
has the capacity for love.
Like any adult, you know
you deserve only contempt.

Lesson Four

The smile is learned,
all mirrors are Antarctic wastes.
But your breath is warm –
write your message on the glass.

Lesson Five

You are both feral,
scavengers haunting
a night of cutthroat stars.
Touch your nose
to the frozen earth,
breathe, breathe each other’s scent.

In the scrub behind the tennis court you arrange sticks into rough squares. What are these windows? You look to the sky, call down magpies, but I look to the ground, see the gleam of lights somewhere below, existing, as we do, in spite of ourselves. You’re hoping to catch the sky in a mirror; its bright pennants of cloud. I’m hoping not  to fall into the dark. 

On Plastics

The guy at the till says
can’t put that back love,
it’s been touched –

and dumb I drop the fork in the bin think

oh love we’ve all
been touched soiled
some of us have pushed
whole humans out

crunching through pelvises
in a gush of blood shit
& some have been hit
stabbed slit with pint glasses surgeon’s scalpels

bones cracked with the butt of a blade by butchers preparing a feed of marrow for hungry guests

we have touched ourselves
our screens
each other on screens
till bacteria trails

we’ve traced
grow verdant
and when you claw
voluptuous loam

allow worms leeches beetles
slither your arms
you’ll find beneath it all
that fucking pristine
plastic fork

outlasting all our snot & puke & tears

Jessica Traynor, Pit Lullabies
(Bloodaxe Books, 2022)

Author photo by Brid O’Donovan