from SIMPLE SENTENCES ABOUT DISASTER

 

I

The birch canoe slid on the smooth banks.1
It slid into the water like breath into air.
We watched the canoe sail away.
Can boats without sails be said to sail?
We watched the canoe leave.

                       ~

Glue the sheet to the dark blue background.
Paint a wash of colour, a primary school sky.
Cut stars from silver foil or space blankets.
Give it to your mother.

                       ~

It’s easy to tell the depth of a well.
Less so when you are falling down it.

                       ~

These days a chicken leg is a rare dish.
If someone served me a chicken leg,
I would say, excuse me, sir,
this is a restaurant and I did not
expect to find a chicken leg here.

                       ~

Rice is often served in round bowls.
I once had a colleague who loved rice.
She loved it so much, she would order it
at restaurants, nothing else, just a bowl
of plain white rice. She was Canadian.
She told me that when she was a child,
it got so cold that her brother’s hair,
gelled into little spikes, could be snapped off.

                       ~

The juice of lemons makes a fine punch.
The juice of lemons can be used in many ways.2
Last night I drank a can of gin and rose lemonade.
I am trying not to use the things my housemates left.
This was an exception. I thought it might make me relax.
                                                       It only made me sad.

                       ~

The box was thrown beside the parked truck.
The box contained a couple of shirts.
It also contained a toothbrush.
Why is there something so clichéd
about a toothbrush?3

                       ~

The hogs were fed chopped corn and garbage.
I hope garbage here means leftover food.

                       ~

Four hours of steady work faced us.
He seemed a steady person.
Steady up. Steady!

                       ~

Large size in stockings is hard to sell.
This sentence is misogynistic.
Who is selling the stockings?
                                    And to whom?

 

II

The boy was there when the sun rose.
It came in through the window.
It came in through the large bottle
of cherry red fairy liquid
that glowed
and cast a light across the floor.

                       ~

A rod is used to catch pink salmon.
My mother told me recently
about the only time she ever went fishing.
Her father took the three girls.
She was maybe seven.
None of them caught any fish,
apart from my mum, who caught an eel.
She said she was disappointed
by this eel, which was not like
the fish she saw in picture books.
Her father wanted them to cook and eat it.
Her mother made him throw it back.

                       ~

The source of the huge river is the clear spring.
The canals in Venice are flowing clear.
You can see fish in them. The swans
have returned. People on Twitter said, look.
This is what we do, we make things dirty.
But my friend Jhanie told me it’s just because
the gondolas stir up dust from the bottom
of the canals. I believe her, but how explain
                                                  the swans?4

                       ~

Kick the ball straight and follow through.
Following through seems along the same lines
as steady work. If we keep working, if we
are steady, can we follow this through?
                              Or see it through?
                       ~

Help the woman get back to her feet.
Don’t get too close.5

                       ~

A pot of tea helps to pass the evening.
I used my last teabag yesterday.
It was a summer berries tea.
How long
                         before I open
my housemate’s snazzy teas?
How long before questions
of belonging no longer matter?6

~

Smoky fires lack flame and heat.
Smoky fires make people cough.
When I was a child, Dad came home
smelling of woodsmoke from bonfires.7

                       ~

The soft cushion broke the man’s fall.
On the phone this morning, I said,
this is selfish, but the people we love
will probably all be okay. I don’t know
what gave me this presumption.8

                       ~

The salt breeze came from across the sea.
Down by the beck this morning, the air
tasted salty from the mud. Like the flood
waters, in their coming and going,
had made the ground an estuary.

                       ~

The girl at the booth sold fifty bonds.
We really bonded over it. I feel we have a bond.
I feel we have an affinity. I feel bound to you.

 

 

      ______________________________________

1 I came across these sentences in Alex’s experiment. He is doing a PhD on speech perception and wears a golden ear pinned to his coat. I had to listen to the sentences overlaid with other speech, and write down what I heard. I heard some strange things, but the sentences struck me as strange in themselves, I suppose because if they were predictable, people would write down what they assumed they heard, rather than trying to figure out what was actually said.

2 When Ottolenghi was on Desert Island Discs, he choose a lemon tree as his luxury item. I am not on a desert island, but I guess the luxury item that I choose, whenever I go to a shop (twice so far – no, thrice), is a bag of mini eggs, which I eat within minutes of opening.

3 Yesterday I scrubbed the grouting in the shower with a spare toothbrush. It was deeply satisfying. March 30.

4 A tweet was later added to the thread, correcting ‘the swans returned’ to ‘the swans rejoiced’.

5 Suddenly no one knows what two metres looks like. A llama, a rake. A man, lying flat in a flowerbed.

6 Should belonging always matter?

7 He has symptoms and is in bed, but I think he is okay. March 30.

8 This poem becomes dated very quickly. I wrote those lines on March 21; today is finally April. I think the situation could easily overtake the poem, but I don’t want to stop writing it. Instead, I hope the poem can grow a little, day by day, to contain this time, like a balloon stretched to the point of translucency.




 

[Emily Pritchard is currently completing an MA in Poetry and Poetics at the   University  of  York, where she is writing about butch poetics. She has been published in Poetry Birmingham and The Kindling .]

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