20 June, 2016Issue 31.2Original Poetry

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Three Poems

Rosa Campbell

The Linguist

No one respects language the way we do. Ours
is sacred. Consecrated, conserved, reserved
for special occasions. Occasionally we play with it –
tongues pushing untouched food around these
soft palates – but more often it is locked away
like fine china, kept for guests and hidden
from each other. Our words are neat soldiers,
mother tongues at quiet war over fatherlands.
Troops held in reserve, we instead send envoys,
ambassadors who stay diplomatically silent,
sent to represent our love interests. (Careful,
catch that in your throat, keep it a prisoner
until the lights are out.) We have academia
to thank for our taciturn lingua franca, shared
between poetry and grammar: I, the lexis,
you, the syntax. But together we can’t seem to
finish sentences, our reticent tongues limp
behind clenched teeth. Consonants only. We
exist in the margins of the dictionary, the blank
space in the curve of a bracket, the breath
before the last line of this attempt to speak.


Second Person

[it’s a beautiful morning] and all I remember
is someone in my old kitchen telling me
that the way I wrote about my hangover
sounded “preachy,” their voice singing
off the hard tiles that I’m not even sure
we actually had in that flat. I used you
(I mean the second person pronoun but
arguably I should be sorry for that too)
and perhaps they thought that for once
I wasn’t talking about myself, perhaps

they had forgotten the necessity of the mirror,
the familiar address of the self, the daily
undressing of the you/I face off with
each morning. Yes, you, whose forehead I
furrow, whose head our hands half-shave
on the opposite side to mine. I use you,
adversary mine, when I peel sticky lines
off the back you turn to me, cold shoulder
in our bathroom, flinging them down
onto hard tiles that are definitely there.

[it’s a beautiful morning] and I am so glad
I own something. That hangover was yours
so it was mine and this is the only marriage
I think I’ll ever have. I can stand nose to nose
with you (O you, O enemy) and rip out
the studs I wore last night and your heart –
I have full rights over that too. I can preach
fire and hatred and the blueness inside you
will respond to my touch. Speaking of blue,
did I mention that [it’s a beautiful morning]?


You Were Right, I’m Sorry I Left

I regret not letting you hold my left hand
with your right hand, with your left hand
on the wheel of your car as we paused
at the traffic lights on our way downtown.

I was trying very hard to keep things easy
but when we sped through an amber light
and you hit the roof with your right hand
my left hand suddenly felt so empty.


Rosa Campbell is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews and Associate Editor at Valley Press.

‘The Linguist’ was originally printed in Icarus .