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2 poems by Jessica Mookherjee

If John Clare was my Father

He might have taken me to to look at what makes a land and person,

counted my meters by weather, held my hand as I stumbled from rocks

into spaces that he could understand. I might ask him where Summer

comes from. Now, It arrives sure-footed as I slip into ditches and fissures.

Quarantined since March, this village retreats, to where I am, with just

an hours walk to see bluebells turn to the brightening light and blend

into a streak of flesh that withers to make way for wild garlic, fern,

then quaking grass, then soft rush. That’s where I am, in the in-between

wildflower and weed, wedged in his words and this Summer, my bold

clothed dad is in good mood because his dinners just right, nothing yet smashed,

he sits, reclined, reading the ancient poets tales of seasons, a courtly flourish

from a distant land, he can still taste it’s spice on the back of his tongue.

There is another voice in the sedge grass, a poor boy singing with words

as sharp as a violin, of a land that gives and takes. A man, a few doors down,

waves at me from his mother’s house – where he’s lived seventy years,

sleeps in the same bed where she bled into the streams of iron rich springs.

I’m where the rocks break the breeze between hedges and verges and settles,

twists into the shape of our shadows, that’s where I am. A place

where rivers forcing upwards, burst through in a gash of small wounds,

that’s where I am. It would be my home if John Clare was my father.

The Wishing Well

A calculus of charges – she goes – neither man

or woman, neither god, nymph or metaphore,

a seeping dip of blips in a semaphore of sips, one drip

at a time, into iron red rock in a bed of ungiving earth.

It looks like blood when she creeps out, tastes

of pennies, a suck of money in it’s mouth.

She said take this honey, place a god on it, say a prayer,

trick it from a spoon and think of him.

That sweet earth, how do you take it in? I listened

to her, watched her spells work on others

and watched my body lose water content, disappear

into underground rocks, I taste of salt, become

careful, careful down those seventy two stone steps.

Down to the outflow, the wind blown stone shapes,

I could float in a rock bath, where men in frock coats

soaked to relieve their stained pricks,

and the women drank to shrink their desires. Carve

me into these cliffs. They lost the folklore here

but the fey have never left; hare twitch, fire eyes,

she darts her blood through the knotted earth

and the hen is a god of springs, laying eggs into ground-

water, yolk is runoff, it’s albumen all protein of blood,

words become bodies, churn them out, keep birthing,

push back up out of soil, out of my mouth.


Jessica Mookherjee is a poet of Bengali origin. She grew up in Wales and now lives in Kent. She has been published in many print and online journals and anthologies including Agenda, Rialto and Poetry Wales. She was highly commended for best single poem in the Forward Prize 2017. Her first collection is ‘Flood’ (2018, Cultured Llama) and her second Tigress is published by Nine Arches Press. She is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.


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