Three poems from Hannah Lowe

The Hitcher



I’ve been enjoying Hannah Lowe’s The Hitcher since it came out from The Rialto and am lucky enough to be able to post three poems from her today. Hannah’s poems are always sharp and interesting on technical grounds, but perhaps most excitingly she plays it from the heart, as well as the head. Speaking about one of her main influences, Philip Levine, Hannah noted “His subject matter attracts me. He has often written about the lives of the industrial poor…He also writes beautifully about his childhood and family. He has such a distinctive voice, rendered so naturally.” Swap ‘he’ for ‘she’ and it’s a pretty neat summary of why I’m such a fan of Hannah.



Fist

When my brother put his fist through a window
on New Year’s Eve, no one noticed until a cold draft
cooled our bodies dancing. There was rainbow light
from a disco ball, silver tinsel round the pictures.
My brother held his arm out to us, palm
upturned, a foot high spray of blood.
This was Ilford, Essex, 1993, nearly midnight,
us all smashed on booze and Ecstasy and Danny,
6 foot 5, folding at the knee, a shiny fin of glass
wedged in his wrist. We walked him to
the kitchen, the good arm slung on someone’s neck,
Gary shouting Danny, Darren phoning for
an ambulance, the blood was everywhere. I pressed
a towel across the wound, around
the glass and led him by the hand into the
garden, he stumbled down into the snow,
slurring leave it out and I’m ok  A girl was crying in
the doorway, the music carried on, the bass line
thumping as we stood around my brother, Gary talking
gently saying easy fella,  Darren draining Stella in one
hand and in the other, holding up my brother’s arm,
wet and red, the veins stood out like branches. I thought
that he was dying, out there in the snow and I
got down, I knelt there on the ice
and held my brother, who I never touched, and never told
I loved, and even then I couldn’t say it
so I listened to the incantation easy fella
and my brother’s breathing,
felt him rolling forward, all that weight, Darren
throwing down his can and yelling Danny, don’t you dare
and shaking him. My brother’s face was grey,
his lips were loose and pale and I
was praying. Somewhere in the street, there was
a siren, there was a girl inside who blamed
herself,  there were men with blankets
and a tourniquet, they stopped my brother bleeding,
as the New Year turned, they saved him,
the snow was falling hard, they saved us all.



Foxes

My friend complains about the foxes screaming
in his garden. Says he’s menaced by the sound,
and sees their snarling faces. I dress and go around
to help him. We listen to the night. His fingers
trace across my scars and smooth the skin
between until I catch his hand under my hand.
My newest bra is hanging on the headboard,
makes a shadow-rabbit on his ceiling.
We mix our noises with the foxes until dawn
when he takes my arm and coaxes me from bed
and down to the back-steps. I’ve been led
out here before. The ivy spills over the walls
in black and green, the sun makes streaks of red
across the sky. The foxes must be sleeping, sated.


The Other Family

The boy blows bubbles at the camera
in a garden of yellow roses,
then the woman, then the boy.
You tumble up from a fake fall,
your jaw meeting the boy’s fist,
his arms flailing wildly,
you unfurling punches
that don’t connect, don’t come close
to that, dancing backwards on your toes
to the kitchen door. This is years ago.
One day you’ll smack his head
so hard, your fist will shake.
But this is years before.
The woman at the sink
in an orange dress, her hands lost
in the suds, watching
the man and boy spar,
the man teaching the boy
how to be a man, the boy
recalling a bubble’s holographic light,
or upstairs, the box room with its
wallpaper of bridges and blue trains
where he woke early to a spot
of sunlight on the skirting board
which made him think of birds
or god until he heard your key click
in the front door. And the woman
downstairs stacking dishes, thinking
of the night she woke in,
watching moonlight sliced across the rug,
the empty space beside her, not knowing
where you are. This is years ago.
The camera has stopped rolling
but we are spinning back, frame
by frame, the boy, the woman,
you – driving in your car,
driving miles, all night, with money
in your pocket, coming home
with what you know.



Buy The Hitcher here, ah go on.

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