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3 poems by Ali Lewis


Half of us she sent with Mr Frederick

out onto top field, armed each

with one of those six-inch plastic squares

you lay on the ground to frame nature with,

and instructions to find whatever was alive

within our patch and describe it,

starting with the grass, then the dandelions

like lampposts in the fog, then – a yelp –

ants like stitches in the world’s scalp.

Fifteen kids parting the grass, while

inside Miss Sanderson passed around

a mini jam-jar topped with a hairband

and a bonnet of gauze and asked us not

to shake the beetle parked inside,

but observe it from every angle –

its shell a bead of banned nail varnish,

its underside through the glass dark

and complicated as the stomach of a car.

Then she sent us out to find our own,

anywhere between the brook and the road

and the fence where the two teachers sat

not talking and watched their two teams

of searchers: Something Everywhere

and Everything Somewhere

we were called. They were sleeping

together, was the rumour. I don’t think

they were not talking about love.

Washing with a Plastic Milk Bottle

in the Nameless Stream

where the streaming light is the milky water

in the bottle I’m washing out first

before washing myself, I remember

my parents used to wash me like this,

with a jug, in the bath,

from a height I can’t reach

now the arm is my own. I’d tip

back my head and open my mouth

to the stream, like I tip back the bottle

and open its mouth

while it fills with cleaner light: base,

then the hollow

of its arm – such self-possession

to have what you’re held by

be your own flesh – then up to the lip.

Starting to wash, I let one hand

linger on the crest

of my hip, as if to bless

the impermeable skin, and, akimbo,

admonish the world for being outside.

Standing, I face down

stream, and wish myself

milk bottle: for the flesh of my palm

to open like half

of a promise and meld and be porous,

like the cool hand of the delta rests

on the land and weeps in nutrients.

The Mackerel Past

The promise the full house on a line

unloseable lucky-dip no-sport-in-it

slashed sack full cloud flashing fat

rain in a wet country like emptying

the bath with both taps on stealing

from the boss paste jewels coloured

glass don’t-even-notice slick mosaic

tessellated path walk-across-the-lake-

on-their-backs the silver-black white-

spark water like a washer full of socks

the bet-your-last fishing rod dodgem

tails sparking on the sky the shoals

wear gulls like hats like midges dip

your hand and come back thimbles

rigged tombola boat listing low-ride

roped dog trying to piss and walk


Ali Lewis was born in Nottingham in 1990. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2018 and his pamphlet, Hotel, was published in 2020 by Verve. His poems and short stories have appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, the London Magazine and the New Statesman. He is a doctoral student at Durham University.


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