Two poems from Kirsten Irving’s What To Do pamphlet

What To DoKirsty, along with Jon Stone, is the brains and nimble fingers behind Fuselit, Sidekick Books, Dr Fulminare’s Irregular Features and many other exciting, hand-crafted poetical schemes. Her debut pamphlet, What To Do, is out now from Happenstance and is a thing of giddy wonder. I’m delighted to post two of the poems from it here, and would encourage its immediate purchase in the strongest possible terms.


When she’s sixteen, when peer discretion
is at a premium, when Belize
is double geography and sweet Dresden
is history, is still broken,
you move in, aiming that barrel at the barrel

and you offer her a lift,
knowing that afternoon is annexed
and she’s itching in grey polyester,
thumbs through school sleeves,
backpack rammed with stupid, stupid books.

And you grin and offer her the bag of ants.
How low we settle – the twist of disgust
that jab between the plates
and the gunman’s laughing,
stumbling, dropping her weapon,

The seedpod body, citrussy,
the bloody industry distilled into smoke
the gin of the abdomen, a flash of sherbert.

As you tell her
ant-eating stories of Koh-Chang,
of Colombia and Australia,
of the tarantula in Cambodia,
she chews toughly
staring you down, guy-roping
the soured corners of her mouth.

She chews these ants to dust
for you, who have become a spear for her,
a rocket launcher she will fire backwards.

She chews past nothing,
past ant-pockets of clarity,
past the ghost ants scaling her body,
and trains her throat to open.

from Recreation Period

ii A Play

Nobody knows how to take Agave.
We put on a play for our families
on visiting day, and she danced like smoke,
slow and serpentine, completely ignoring
the glossy melody, swaying erratically.
She wouldn’t stop
staring at Beechy’s sister, who looked
like she’d rather be anywhere
than here, lapdanced by a crazy.

A huge, polite clap at the end.

Agave doesn’t hear that either.
Beechy’s sister has a toy lion
and it pins her. Martha’s
starting to lead her off, when Agave
crunches on her own tongue,
lunges for the lion, spraying blood,
and abducts it to her room, snotting and wailing.

Beechy’s sister will relate this years later;
will spit at her parents for taking her there,
will wonder how the hell you dance like that,
whether you have to be mental.

We think Agave had kids,
but then a lot of us did.
Kids, or approximations of kids.

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