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3 poems by Poppy Cockburn

save, don’t save

I’m browsing an article about eye-drops designed to stimulate tears when the internet turns off, like a trick, like new knowledge. A crock of gold appears at the end of an endless scroll. Thank fuck. I go outside, sprawl on the stock-photo beach. The glitching landscape overrides my settings, melts them to algorithmic goo. Screenshots of sublime flirting delete permanently, cache clears romantic instants saved in history, bookmarked flesh, perpetually flowering selfie, cropped misery. The pervy waves crash into pixelless distance. Courageously, they crash. I am experiencing a surging within my deepest operating system. I’m crying.

On the last sunny day

Bikini bare at the beach

I watch dads do laughing gas with their kids.

I love men’s bodies but recoil from aftershave.

All week I’ve been drinking cherry cola but don’t feel any sweeter.

Long-term crushes are fine if you don’t try to make them real.

Most real things are repulsive.

Plain blue skies get boring after a while.

You can catch a cloud in a picture you can’t catch in your arms.

Poetry is ephemeral, inconsequential glimpses that are sometimes profound

the way every now and then a glance is profound.

Shallow water is the prettiest.

I do not enjoy competitive sports,

I like hula hooping

until a pervert comes along and stops to stare at me.

My heart is made of play-doh.

I always get to the beach as the sun is leaving.

After The Waste Land

I am laughing.

Enya’s Orinoco Flow makes gale-force winds

and driving rain funny.

I am alive! I am human! Humans are weird!

The blown-out glass at the Nayland Rock shelter

isn’t going to be replaced. Austerity is here to stay.

Tents ripple, inhabited by people blown out of the Capital

by blown-up living costs. Banished to Dreamland, poetry,

toilets. Sold out! Tom Jones.

May I laugh?

Eliot had his wife committed. Signed on the dotted line.

The clock tower strikes cocktail hour.

A line-up of wives join me on the flaking paint chairs:

Vivienne Haigh-Wood, Sylvia Plath, Joan Vollmer.

They sing into the pale blue breeze

symphonic disillusion, melodic breath. Pretty

fragments are harder to break. Linearity is passé.

Plaques add photo ops.

I am laughing,

optimism bubbling from behind my worn hoardings.

This town is full of ghosts, who turn to flesh when you say their names.

This town is full of devils. That’s what the tabloids say.

At the Lido, in the shell grotto, Cinema Paradiso.

We read every wave. We sync with the tides.

We connect anything with anything.

Our drinks are lit up from inside.

The app says, reach land to find love.

Soon, the sun will return with its Lucozade light

to anoint couples sheened in sweat;

solo drinkers on benches, halo hair wisps,

amber beer drops; dog walkers squinting toward shore.

I will run out for direct communion. Nothing between

me, the sky, laughter.


Poppy Cockburn is a Margate-based poet and communications strategist working in the arts. Her most recent chapbook — Liquid Crystal Lovesick Demon — was published by Broken Sleep Books in 2023.


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