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Two poems by Lucy Holme

I Have Always Valued A Checklist Above All Other Things

  • i like a ring-bound notepad with faint gold lines & write in it with a familiar biro — always black & preferably un-chewed 

  • my list accompanies me everywhere i go & grows longer each day

  • i review items regularly &  strike them through when complete 

  • my list morphs from a catalogue of required items to a record of those events of which my mind cannot easily let go a record of lessons i have tried & failed to learn 

  • over time it becomes an index of forgotten or mislaid ideas

  • of experiences i buried due to immaturity or fear or inability to render the concepts in a language i might   myself understand 

  • on each new page i write the date & underline it with a swirly flourish

  • broccoli milk washing-powder matches potatoes butter leeks bouillon bicarbonate of soda 

  • new items demand to be written down pen hovers & threatens paper  

  • i follow a haphazard route around the supermarket i lose my way 

  • through my earphones a podcast breaks down a famous writer’s perfectly expressed lyrical reflections on their journey towards completing their greatest work yet     they never thought / didn’t plan      they are humbled /

  • my greatest work to date might be this list but in this scribble there is buried pain which cannot be deciphered each splinter is too small to grasp fully and pull out

  • i notice a word  i notice the word Hanrahan’s on a jar of sour pickles i see a restaurant of the same name i recall my father’s fury the taste of rage as cutlery scrapes nearly empty plates as he shouts at a man who tries to grab his 12 year old daughter on her way to use the bathroom the man is drunk & stares at the girl who knows only that dinner is ruined & that somehow it is her fault

  • i mark gherkins on my list with an asterisk to re-visit later 

  • apples colour-catchers Always Ultra Night Pads anchovies orzo extra virgin olive  oil — the pilot smirks and allows his buddy (who does not have a license) to take the controls my stomach lurches & i see our helix outline sketched on parched Italian fields an olive grove beckons like hands reaching for mine

  • i wait  as another trolley passes close by & i consult my list again

  • maple syrup Barry’s Tea Weetabix sweetcorn slimline tonic Greek yoghurt tuna-fish in brine 

  • & i am running in slow motion down an empty beach on an island which boasts more bears than people my chest aches there is blue ice on the rocks cold water tips into the top of my waders 

  • i want to tackle the items on my list but i cannot see the words for remorse

  • i am awake with sore knees the remembrance of gushing water & that old wives tale — how your joints will start to ache when it is about to rain

  • the knowledge that water inside a boat deep in the Pacific Ocean can never be explained away by conjecture. 

  • the feeling that i have been salvaging items from this same list my whole life.


Mnemosyne Tries To Forget What Surrender Felt Like

Your arms break water, make dark and rhythmic circles in the pool of your Bangkok rooftop hotel. Continents away from me, from girls like me who asked you why. Though I too have left the town in which we once melted into each other, my mind returns to that dingy basement club I wrote about, taut from the tension we generated to remember the strangeness of your lips on mine, that curious whimper you made in my mouth as we kissed, your unfamiliar body pressed tight against my own. Does the memory of that place in Sarzano still vibrate for you? Are there days when the recollection splits the day open like a ripe mangosteen with the rising of the sun? Those desperate hours, phone in hand when we yearned, across timelines, for one more touch, one further chance to kindle the blood in our bodies, to pique before surfacing. You have had more experience of conciliation in your lifetime than is usual for a man of your age. The words you knew to use — words designed to soothe a parched and gasping heart could not quench the thirst; or satisfy that throat-scraping terror called desire. 

          Think of me with kind thoughts, you said. We’ll find a way to keep this good from god. To savour the gift of love, we made to use when times are heavy. I took your words like communion bread and swallowed them whole — not savoured, for once not carefully dissected, I just consumed without even asking why — but I ask myself now what good from god it ever was, now the craving has abated for good. You will always be cool blue heat. A stolen photo with the contrast turned up. Nights made of soft sighs and hard tongue and deep dreamless sleep, then awake — like a cricket in the morning — doors flung open to a chorus of Italian traffic, my arm shielding burning cheeks, and then — you gone with the rattle of the ancient lift doors — standing on the street, whistling a tune under my balcony. Even if the sentiments sent from across the world do not fill me any more, I’m glad we collided that winter. I may never know Catullus the way you did, but I don’t hate or love with the same intensity any more and it frees me. Maybe, one day, I’ll forget our shared language completely.

About the Author

Lucy Holme lives in Cork, Ireland. Her poems feature in The Stinging Fly, PBLJ, Bad Lilies, and Poetry Wales amongst others. She was shortlisted for The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2023 and her CNF features in PBLJ and Banshee Literary Journal and is forthcoming in The Well Review. Her debut chapbook, Temporary Stasis, is published by Broken Sleep Books. Twitter - @lucy_holme and IG 

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