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2 poems by Chrissie Gittins

The Howling Lesson

Feel the swing of your tail,

the thickness of your coat

rippling across your shoulder blades.

Throw your head back,

let the air rise from your diaphragm.

Hanging from your hyoid bone

your voicebox holds the crawling

breath of three hundred days of waiting.

Summon the vowels of a howl –

aroooo, raaaaa, woooo.

Let the glottis open and absorb

the mud and mist of uncertainty.

Aim your yowl over the trees and hills

so it may carry to the next county,

to your relatives in far off cities,

through the letterboxes of strangers.

Howl with grace and tenderness,

howl with bleached anger,

howl with longing so long

it lasts for three long days.

When your howling ends

it will seep into the soil

and re-emerge as cathedrals.


We gave the same name to a rat

as we did to a giraffe,

a daisy was also a rhododendron.

When we pulled a lemon drizzle cake

out of the oven we called it bara brith.

People walked up and down the street

calling out to their neighbours –

‘Dave’, Lulu’, ‘Marissa’.

It was Frank, Lalia and Shannon

who called back.

Driving was treacherous.

A sign for South Wales also said Honolulu.

The motorways were strewn

with cars in the middle of u-turns.

‘We don’t speak your language,’

said the tea-cups.

‘We don’t understand your implication,’

we replied.

The police put up cordons

and danced in the spaces between.

From the cellophane on the bandstand

drifted the words ‘beautiful’, ‘comfort’, ‘never’.

That was when the tide turned.

Each word aligned with its meaning

and stayed there,

anchored and hooked like leather to Velcro.


Chrissie Gittins’ poetry collections are Armature (Arc), I’ll Dress One Night As You (Salt) and Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams). She appeared on BBC Countryfile with her fifth children’s collection, Adder Bluebell, Lobster (Otter-Barry Books). She has received Arts Council and Author’s Foundation awards and features on the Poetry Archive.


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