Holly Pester

Café Poems


Café as think-tank metaphor for Enterprise. False Memory porn. Collage Damage. Diffusion transfer

Everyone wants to be heard. I’ve got myself into something twisted and ongoing with her. I hear her, then there is a power between us. I accept her version of things. She needs to be heard. What she says changes everything. We thought we could give her rights, she spoke with them. We had no right. Now she’s twisted. Now everyone’s lost. We start again, tell us what you want. We can’t give it. We fool her. She believes us. I tried for nothing. I find younger women to speak to me with so much confidence it fools me, easy and bizarre and I give way to them. I had no right and we all fail. I abandon trying but in doing so I create a power in-balance. To get out of it I have to ruin them a little. One deception per day. Now I am the youngest and a tyrant, I’ve twisted everyone. I shout at the door when I panic. Begin again, there is no neutral sympathy. The poet’s blank space, the third place that’s neither home nor work, the arch over the sugar bowl that arrived alongside. It goes nowhere. How envious I am of myself in these moments. I had a thought about belonging to here and tried to explain it. Galette, I said. Thanks, marvellous, send.

so obscure, apologetic and funny, I sneezed. Instead I thought, the band is ready

As always I had departed from the group and gone solo to the cafe. At the door a long-haired woman asked if I wanted company, her husband insisted he’d be fine. We’re having noodles! as she waved him down the road. At our table she spoke to me like an old friend. We tipped stock into our mouths, gasped, except she kept interrupting her own stories about her sweet, sweet career to ask if I was about to start singing. No, I’m just listening. But you looked, she said, like you were about to break into a song. I don’t sing, I just listen. Well, she continued, every dawn I’m closer to death, regardless, I plait my hair like I have done since I was eleven, now it’s so silver and long. Every morning I have an idea about how to do it differently but don’t and do you know what that means? No, I said. It means, she paused then said, you are! I knew it, you’re about to sing. Last night there were two sounds: a mosquito in the room and an intruder on the stairs. One reporting on the other. I owed both sounds a horror I couldn’t muster. So obscure, apologetic and funny, I sneezed. Instead I thought, the band is ready.


Holly Pester is a poet and writer. She has worked in sound art and performance, with original dramatic work on BBC Radio 4, and collaborations with Serpentine Galleries, Women’s Art Library, and Wellcome Collection. Her poetry has been published extensively, appearing in Poetry Review, The White Review and Poetry London. Her fiction has been published in Granta and anthologised in Protest (Comma Press, 2018). Comic Timing, her Forward Prize-nominated first full collection of poetry, was published by Granta, 2021.

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