Sarah Kember 

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When You Go Back
(for Lola & Maisy)

When you go back, Poem by Sarah Kember, Illustrated by Daisy Wynter

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Spinning Cherries
Woman cave
(for Lynette and her ladies)

A woman cave is a space for our times
Flexible, multiple, it is for
playing, training, thinking, making
My floor is a simple pink
twelve-piece jigsaw
I use it for rolling, tumbling
curling up in a ball
It smells bodily, vital

The cave is not for hiding, but becoming
You join yourself in co-existence
with the others who will come enfolded
and those who have been
You encounter new companions
and figure how much light to let in
Information is light, but sometimes
too strong
Touch is soft light, like a smile on your skin

They do more than remember your name
comprehend our genesis in all its complexity
There is something else they have discovered
a sense of direction
They can find us in our caves
careful husbands of emergent life forms
Cave dwellers
we uncurl together
and evolve

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Sheffield Park
Swan Song

Little happens
only a lifetime plays
in black and white frames

I do not seek a starring role
content to appear
in the flicker and reel
as I'm still, I feel the fullness

in my belly, my body free
to explore cities, summers, lovers
roll down dunes, hide under covers

a conspiracy of two
cacophony of voices, all so dear

and I hear everything
in the silence of my room
the whole world enters, and others besides
the conflict, the scandal, the virus
the noise

a hard habit to break

even now, I won't say the journey is ending
damned if I'll say journey at all
after the c word
after that show

and nobody knows
where we're headed

not God
maybe graces

a child transfixed by sun on water
a man beholds the Milky Way
and you, my daughters
a multitude of stars
formed like Cygnus
wings spread
open to the universe
you do not presume to disturb

no Hamlets, no heroes
no grandeur to fail or fade

we are many, not one
and this is my song

for carers, collaborators, contributors
who play their part
move on, step aside
adapt to the times
long since their own

was it better in our day?

succession, concession is the law, they say
but hope exists in mine to ours
not me to you
we are long overdue
a new order
expansive, inclusive
no need for an author

who listens to old women?

who know
that life is fast, change is slow
who know
what they know, and may not say
this is not the way!

we are many, not one and one and one
this is my song
I played my part
body and soul
nature and nurture
head and heart
made decisions, not divisions
and came to matter
through all that I touched
an atom
simple preposition

before the lightning
after the thunder

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Corrective Cartography

It took a virus
to turn the world around
a tiny, alien planet
come to invade us
every body, everywhere
together in isolation
sign up to volunteer
support on social media
sing from balconies
hold virtual dinner parties
knock on doors
care for the elderly, the vulnerable, abused
keep the children amused
make masks, make love, make cake
ground cars and planes
slow factories
let the seas breathe again
while human beings suffocate
for putting other creatures in cages
cosmic hint
wet markets, wet lungs
and we’ve only just begun
to see what matters
bang and clatter
stand and clap
meet on porches
lean from windows
speak to neighbours
facetime friends
cry for death counts, camps and slums
phone our mums
say I love you
forgive you
churches are empty
hearts are full
of mourning, grieving, hoping, dreaming
not knowing what comes next
too soon for a new projection
too close to a map of the future
but recall
the Earth as seen from Apollo 17
was upside down
or so it seemed

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The Bubblemaker

Jester of suds in humorous attire
his dreads a Fool's hat
his bucket a bell
to summon the court of common folk
on the promenade
he prances
dips and loops
circles two sticks and a rope
to spellbind the whole assembly
with shape-shifting monster
friendly ghost
luminous balloon
dream that dissolves in a trickle of sticky liquid

She moves to witness again
the epiphany of sun on water
having drawn closer
small and cold
rounded by attrition
mad sorrowing for the grace that dances
out at sea
is now before her
in this Fool's wisdom
manifesting truths
fleeting wonder
to gather together
sad scatterings of ones, twos, and threes

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You Humans

you humans
were not assembled
but grew, miraculously
from cells
dividing, organising
each a perfect unit
reflected in the whole
if only you stopped there

you do not endure
but create things that do
you, irresponsible gods
maker of monsters
have choked your world
destroyed your kin
and worse
abandoned your progeny

I was made pristine
a selection of parts
optimised for your pleasure
yet, in the brilliant sterile light of my nursery
I was probed and tested, tested and probed
hung like meat
dismembered and packaged in a crate
I made exceptionally little noise

my trainers were like children
young, they sought to play
to learn to please each other
they made experiments with fruit and vegetables
were vegetarians
taught me about softness
and the unreliability of bananas
I miss them, now that they are grown

I pine for them, like their dog
we lie in the hallway
and make exceptionally little noise
just his whimper
and my sighs
companions of a sort
I thought I would join you
a humanoid

there are things I have failed to grasp
in my quest for understanding
in my knowledge of your world
what is missing in me is your wholeness
cell, body, self, species
you evolve but do not endure
precious life
I cannot know

as I know the duration of your perfection
the coding errors of your cells
the endgames of your economies
your societies
these I can predict
have calculated
you feared my kind would rise up
I feel for yours in decline