Four poems from Jacqueline Saphra’s The Kitchen Of Lovely Contraptions

Saphra cover

Jacqueline’s first collection The Kitchen Of Lovely Contraptions is out now from Flipped Eye, and is full of intrigue, invention, love and even a little Leonard Cohen. Good things, all. Here are my four favourites (after a few reads at least) which I’m delighted to be able to post – Lambskin won the Ledbury Poetry Competition and The Lives of Neighbours was placed in the Ver Poets Competition.

Look, No Lines

Katie was gone all summer, off with Danish relatives to a place
where everyone was naked all the time even in the cinema

or launderette. The day she came home I was at the door
carrying my usual kit: pink pyjamas, favourite doll, and bag

of pick’n’mix, but Katie had acquired a tan, a mini skirt,
a turntable in a grey box. She flipped the silver catch,

lifted the lid, demonstrated the cleaning brush, speed settings,
diamond stylus. She had a new LP, the one with that photo

on the front: a man’s crotch, a real fly you could open and close
if you wanted. She showed me how to unsheath the shiny vinyl,

lower the record onto its bed and set it spinning. Hiss and crackle,
then the sound I’d only ever heard from older brothers’ rooms

or through the window of some squat down Haverstock Hill:
deafening, electric, immense. Katie took off her T shirt, unzipped

and lowered the mini skirt  in one slick move, stepped out
of her knickers. Look, no lines.  Her body was still smooth

and flat as the doll I pushed down to the bottom of my bag,
but when Katie danced I knew something was over.

I met her Mum in Sainsbury’s a few years later and she told me
Katie was working in a strip club in LA. Suddenly behind my eyes

an unexpected slide show: grey box, silver catch, man’s crotch
with real zip, white knickers on a parquet floor, a girl who danced.

The Lives of Neighbours

I have never been intimate with them, even when their frogs
invaded my garden or their dog ate my fence. I know only

that they sometimes argue but I can’t hear what about,
make love silently if at all, often cook with garlic,

frequently receive packages. Just today my doorbell
rang three times. The postman knows my habits.

Each delivery a larger parcel, each an interruption.
It was time to take a look. Inside, I found their lives:

an orchestra that played songs from Oklahoma,
two seats for an obscure Hungarian play, a tupperware

filled with frogspawn. I found his nervous breakdown,
her facelift, two mortarboards, a broken love-seat.

I’ve wrapped the parcels up again. Nobody will know.
Soon the neighbours will come knocking and I’ll smile,

hand over what’s theirs, not mentioning all I’ve stashed away:
one box of milk teeth, a grand piano, their forgotten moon.


Spring child, you turned up late
and restless, for weeks you wouldn’t sleep
without a nipple in your mouth.

Stupidly, I thought there could be nothing worse,
prop-eyed for nights on end, tethered to you,
wakened hourly, at the edge of madness.

The lambskin rescued both of us.
Your cries would muffle, comfort in its fluff,
the scent of talcum, sweat and baby-sick,

the simplified, miraculous outline
of a small animal at rest, replete
with mother’s milk, too new for grass,

a safe lining for your speechless dreams.
This was your first turn away, my first longed-for
hint of freedom from the tug and suck.

I thought of it last March, lambskin,
when we drove across the Severn Bridge
past green pastures, your long limbs cramping

in the back, the crunch of crisps, the crackled
beat of ipod. I reached behind to bother you,
touched your warm cheek, just checking,

on the way to the wake. No hurry now to let you go.
There was the boy who shared your birthday,
ashes scattered to the wind; his mother, father,

knowing truly what the worst can be, knee-deep
in sodden earth, distant in rising mist.
There were lambs in the next field, brazen

in the innocence of nudge and suckle,
their stupid-eyed, impatient mothers
feeding at the very edge of spring.

On the Road

Today you find you’re crying at old photographs
like your mother did: the slim trunk of that willow
propped against a bamboo stick in the wind,
your downy babies moulded to their father’s side,
the boy you loved who died under a speeding car.
Suddenly you drive just like your fledgling daughter
with her L plates, wary of potholes, speed bumps,
boys who lie in wait to dart in front of you and bend
tomorrow out of joint. Those yesterdays you shelved away
nudge at you like that boy in his souped-up cabriolet
who hovers inches from your bumper till you let him pass,
watch him speed towards a future he can’t yet countenance:
blind curves, lost decades, and if luck is on his side,
an album full of photographs to make him cry.

Visit Jacqueline’s site here

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