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?) –
Stands, sways,
Says all her poems are about things that
Really happened,
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,
Through you,
Is 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.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on info@thelondonmagazine.org. Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.