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3 poems by Jane Lovell

Herring girl

Endless, the silver darlings.

We slip and twist the futtle blade

through gills and down;

slick out the long gut.

Boots mash a slime of scales

and grume,

hands bleed into salt, bleed

into last night's thrust and pull,

the freezing air, hot breath

of smoke and ale, the scratch

and musk of wool.

Push your fingers in, pink flesh

fanned on needle-thin ribs;

find the roe.

Gulls wheel and shriek,

hover to grab thrown scrap.

Over the harbour wall, the wind

cuts the sea into black slabs.


Impaled on spines

of acacia, he keeps

a grinning lizard,

a corpse dressed

with feathers.

It hangs unresisting:

spineless in decay,

toes knotted threads,

skin a memory

of grizzled bark.

He stabs its belly

with his dagger-beak

draws out like bunting

a string of intestine

to tempt her.

In the midday sun,

eyes dried slits,

tarry in light

like beads of resin,


Shrikes are known for their habit of impaling their prey on thorns, barbed-wire or any available sharp point. This can serve as a food store or as a way for the male to show his prowess.

Beautiful Georgiana in death pose at the Royal Tyrrell

I find you after the dance, alone

and twisted in exquisite contortion.

Each taut muscle, your upturned throat,

betray the last throes of existence.

People murmur at your terrible beauty,

the impossible curl of your spine.

Fixed by rays of unforgiving light

you wait to be released,

your prince clattering through some grey dawn

to arrive at the tower of stone.

I wait for darkness, silence held at bay

by my own breathing,

ease open the perspex casing, touch you.

Your mouth is open.

I feed you small mammals, insects, worms,

place them on your tongue, revive you.

Flesh creeps and fattens on your bones;

your eyes charge with lizardy light.

You stretch each pitted limb and snap

your jaws, struggle to your feet, sway

left and right, seeking. You are formidable;

I am suddenly conscious of my own soft flesh.

We leave by the back stairs, avoiding

the laser sensors, the security guard.

You follow me home keeping to the shadows,

dipping and hissing at passing dogs,

gaunt and awkward in your dated leather,

black tongue flickering in the curious air.


Jane Lovell has won several major awards including last year's Ginkgo Prize. Her latest collection, The God of Lost Ways, is published by Indigo Dreams Press. She lives in North Devon. More information can be found at


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