Leonie Rushforth

An Irishman flies in from New York to see Krapp’s Last Tape and falls asleep on someone’s shoulder

Up in the steep dark, body heat gathers,
the breathing comes less easily. The wait,
longer than it should be, is long enough
for a few relentless turns of the spool
into what was almost silence,
so that that stranger’s lolling head tipping
yearning into wordless sleep awakens
tenderness in the shoulder that will soon
in another several grateful exhalations
receive its bowing.
……………………………The curtain’s line floats
serenely up revealing time unreeling
on an empty desk, a man costive, creaking, choking –
and, while bodies high up there in the dark
begin to remember they cannot bear
themselves either, mysteriously the
stranger’s head, naked and still flying over
dazzling arctic wastes, is almost taken
very tenderly in two hands and kissed.



driving east on the Westway

Oh! massive March moon – your apocalyptic blush,
let me watch you swing in to look closer
at London, this emergency, this rule.

Don’t slip so fast behind the scenery, the scaffolds,
the glassy towers – wait! Before you rise steep
into that borrowed glare trite as sixpence

bring me to my senses in this second’s splinter where
the office lights are coming on in what can look
like constellations. Nothing must be left behind.


The above poems are reproduced with permission from Deltas, the first full collection of poems by Leonie Rushforth, published in February 2022 by Prototype. To purchase a copy, visit the publisher’s website

Leonie Rushforth was born in Ely in 1956. She lives in east London. She recently came second place in the 2021 Poetry London Prize, and in 2003 was the winner of the Keats-Shelley Prize. In the years in between those awards, she has also served on the judging panels of both the Costa Book Awards and the Forward Poetry Prizes. Deltas is her first full collection of poems.






The above poems also feature in our February/March 2022, which is out now. To buy as a single issue, go here.

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