‘Allotment Evening’: a poem by Helen Calcutt


    Allotment Evening


You left the fire burning.
The smoke stirred like a person moving
among the brassicas and twine, and for a moment
we thought it was you.
The ground was steeped in yellow.
Daffodils hung their soft heads, surrounded by light,
and I lifted the tender net on the cage
(the growing cage)
and went in.
I had to prise their leaves apart
to find their purpled necks. Their long, tender stems,
their gaining forms, were huge and warm
and I had to cut at them with my own fingers and nails,
I had to sink them into the tough wet
and pull away their heads.
My daughter went up and down the path on her bike.
The wheels rattled while I knelt at the shrine
of growing gods, and killed them.
Their proud hearts came away easily.
I stood holding them a long time
in the crimson evening,
the high sky hung a salt-wash blue, and our bodies,
two, were dark against all that natural glory,
the smoke continued to rise out of its wound
smelling of sacredness and earth,
and when my daughter asked me for water
and I made a cup from her hands
the sound of her drinking was like nothing else,
it was like victory after the killing.
We walked away then, our hands dripping.
The long, limp shadows of the cage, their deep green,
pooled low, humming with softness and blood,
but we were going away,
singing and rattling with the wheels on the bike
(their turn, their turn)
our dead things in hand
and the sun over our heads, shining.


Helen Calcutt

About Helen Calcutt

Helen is the author of two volumes of poetry: ‘Sudden rainfall’ (Perdika Press, 2014), a PBS Pamphlet Choice, and ‘Unable Mother’ (V.Press, 2018). Her poetry and critical writing features in the Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Brooklyn Review, Poetry London, Poetry Scotland, and The London Magazine, among many others. She is creator and editor of acclaimed poetry anthology ‘Eighty-Four’ (Verve Poetry, 2019) in aid of the leading suicide prevention charity CALM. It was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards, Best Anthology, 2019, and was a Poetry Wales Book of the Year, 2019. Helen is a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at Loughborough University, and works as a writing tutor for organisations including The Poetry School, N.A.W.E and Writing West Midlands. Her new pamphlet will be published by Verve Poetry Press in autumn 2020.