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3 poems by Kali Richmond


Reasonable adjustment: dry your clothes

on the lines provided/

The outer-walls of these flats are shields

grinding trinal shoulder to shoulder cerberean beast

common enemy (sic ‘em) Helios

who slips only phallic strips of searing light

through archways occasionally fingering turrets

Acting in a tenant like manner/

but is yet to blast the façade to dust

There are two types here:

felines unspooling in rare panting heat and monsters

squatting seething in abundant dank crevices

Have you tried the removal of houseplants?

At its core the courtyard exists

in a nuclear winter

the lichen (singular) (lecanora dispersa) long since expired

—mandate, not suggestion/

The ground floor doubles as dungeon

inner walls inching moist with life

microscopic rats scurrying via wastepipes

to lungs

Chisel through gelatinous bind

of vat-birthed mass-produced magnolia for:

Windows must be opened daily/

This fortress unsavoury adorning carapace of penury

sheltering descendants of peasantry

lamenting pre-industrial

Ventilation: crucial/

Albatross – for Nanci

you said it’s not the children

holding mothers back

children make us strong

and I hummed this remark

for weeks regarding a fresh slant

emboldened by our young

not a receptacle for vampyre

nor bruised fruit embedded with nails

but an open palmed woman

rounded hypnotic portal

cyclonic drawing your eyes

to the centre of her cauldron swill

we opened up and yes there were bones

gristle tendons and claws

a snag between one corporeal heft

and another invisible but taut

tenacious I guess both of our late starts

into elevated cultivation

might be for them

as much as for us role model

allocated duty in life and society

was it strength which had us failing

in our duty to society

so young lacking fledgling careers

fattening flagrant brazen

traversing upper street fifteen years

too soon many hundreds

of thousands of pounds out of place

or mere illiteracy of trajectory

you said it’s not the children

holding mothers (who are artists)

back children make us

strong in the face of adversity

the grimacing as we weave

our wombs into a shroud

of runes document self-made

overcrowding traipse inattentive

into goldin’s warning: adult content

after three gawping girls


A woman is encouraged to look back

through a lens of distortion, window

thick with the dust of long-term avoidance.

She rubs at that night, at first tentative, and then frantic –

The blow of battering ram

against door. Knock, knock – and here is when

she slips through the glass – collapse.

Men flow through the smoking hole like bees swarming

from the nest at the base of the woman’s compost bin,

disturbed when she rammed the lawn mower into it, except these bees

have hold of the handle, and are more akin to hornets,

the invasive kind in their slick protective armour, who dine on bees,

and she – diminished to pupa – is a bee, all the shadow people

in this flat are bees, buzzing through concrete chambers, the little stings

in their hands paltry compared to the proud blades in the hornets grasp.

Actually, she is not a bee, she has no needling defence,

is of no size, easily squashable, a fruit fly,

almost invisible, mere irritant at the corner of their eye.

And at the discharge of pheromones accompanied by wild

vibrations, hornet blades lurch to the tender of her gut,

and then swing, a moment before impact, indifferent, away.

Bees clutched to thoraxes are extracted from the hive,

one after another after another, until it is just the fruit fly/girl,

and a bee/man, whose name she doesn’t know, and a broken

door letting in the acrid swill of a stairwell.

At which point a woman is coaxed back – snap

to hospital antiseptic overlaid with ruin of lilies,

and dried husks of arthropods littering the windowsill.


Kali Richmond is a writer and video artist living in York. Her poetry has featured in PERVERSE, Gutter Magazine, Crows of Minerva, Marble Magazine, and more. Her debut pamphlet, Gradual Reduction to Bone, is out with Nine Pens. She is a current recipient of Arts Council DYCP funding, exploring poverty and addiction through poetry and film.


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