I’d spent hours trying to decide on my two favourite baby names (I couldn’t) and had forgotten to get ready for the reading! A countdown clock in the top-right corner of my laptop said the screen would go live in 4 minutes, and I was still in my pyjamas. I scavenged two Rich Tea biscuits to keep me going and waded into the Irish Sea – it was an al fresco poetry party – immediately stepping on a cluster of black sea urchins, whose six-inch spines penetrated my feet before blossoming into rubbery pink flowers with thick green tentacles protruding from their pistils [how did I know this?]. My publisher’s assistant editor (nice guy, from Aberdeen) phoned a doctor-friend and attempted to relay to me her thoughts on my predicament – I was on a gurney now, in an otherwise-empty blue-tiled corridor – but his voice was like candy floss, a breathy little cloud, and what with the tentacles’ swishing, and the pain, I wasn’t able to catch a single word.
zigzags down in chiffon garments, which flutter when he speaks. His voice is as soft as the heather on that cliff overlooking the sea where you holidayed last May, and his voice is a silver spike nursing a vein. ‘Have you telephoned your mother recently?’ he queries, then adds to your shame by pointing out there are blackberry stains round your mouth that you’ve forgotten to lick off. His face is the face of the man you see Saturdays at the farm shop: bushy beard, deep-set eyes and no reason to dissemble. His hands are a tangle of vines blistered with plump, shiny fruits, which you compliment then decline, the aftermath of Berrygate still prickling your cheeks.
Rebecca Watts is the author of two poetry collections, The Met Office Advises Caution (2016) and Red Gloves (2020), and editor of Elizabeth Jennings: New Selected Poems (2019), all published by Carcanet.