Spring poems from Marcelle Olivier and Penelope Shuttle


i eat her lungs, in a dream,
while she lies beside me. no,
not eat, but inhale out of her
body. she says: i am tired.

she says: i am tired, and then
we lie in a bed and talk, talk
nonsense – as if we knew
each other. her hair is colourless.

her hair is colourless, like bleached
scarab legs kept airless in a jar
on the windowsill; like the undreamt,
harsh memories of serotonin.

memories of serotonin flood
the cavity of her. without touching
comfort becomes papal – she
sinks into the sheets as if she loves.

as if she loves, too, the potential
of neural pathways, or the bleak mystery
of a spring famine in the horn of africa,
where the goats can graze on sand.

goats can graze on sand, still cannot
die without dreaming. when i look
at her, and when she speaks, i see
my own lips shiver. i eat her lungs.

*marcelle olivier is a South African-born writer and archaeologist living in Cambridge, UK. You can read more of her poetry in, amongst others, Oxford Poetry, New Contrast, and Carapace.

The Year Strikes the Rock

The year strikes the rock
with one spoilt-child glance, like Athene,

the world’s first olive tree
springs up, millions will follow,

their rough grey bark like lions’ tongues,
their little squab branches

striving for sky at the year’s command,
ankle-deep in poor thin dry soil.

The year is sleepless on her mother’s side,
wants to live where a lake

lies quietly under the spell of its own name,
where evening makes a quiet copy of everything,

the year wants to live in
a leaky green caravan in Cadiz

or in an attic some place
where the world won’t think of looking for her…

The year makes many an arduous journey,
one day scaling a mountain range,

the next scanning a flat mirage-ridden
monotony of sea ice,
now the year wears bird-feather gloves,
bluethroat, greenwing teal, swan of the tundra,

her sealskin boots are lined with caribou fur,
her cape sewn from the pelt of the arctic hare…

At night, in the tent,
by the faint shine of the lamp,
the year carves maps on tablets of walrus ivory…

Poor year, her maps are out of date before the dawn…
So what?

She knows her work is never done,
she’s a realist,

tucks all her weathers
under her humble hairy marvellous armpit,
just watch her making sunshine
from the gold of Frau Luther’s wedding ring.

* Penelope Shuttle's
last collection Redgrove’s Wife
(Bloodaxe Books,
2006), was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and T.S. Eliot Prize.
Her latest collection is Sandgrain and
(Bloodaxe Books,

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