Two poems by Lisa Kelly

Below are two poems from Lisa Kelly’s debut collecton A Map Towards Fluency, recently published by Carcanet.


    Colchester Native


Oysters shucked. Poor man’s beef discarded
down guts and out again to sea. Shells salvaged.
Here, concentrated behind wire mesh, hard stuffing
for this upholstered seat placed for musing
on the river Colne. Quantities shipped on
circuitous routes to sate Elizabethan London.
The centre sucking resources in greedy gulps.
Local beds, and locals lay wasted in leaner times.
What now? Lean back on shells, characteristically
flat, the flesh enjoyed by Romans firm and salty,
a wet dream of these parts. Orgiastic oysters,
slipping down, coming up, their stockmarket fortunes,
bivalve biology, always two sides to prize apart:
rich & poor, insider & outsider. Pearly junkets
or gritty chronicles? Filter feeders, take it all in and sift
through for dignitaries at the annual Oyster Feast
by invitation only since Saint Dennis held his fair.
Left out in the cold, sit back, digest world wars
and viruses, how oyster numbers could not atone:
oistre, ostreum, ostreon. Osteon, so close to bone.


    Let them Leave Language to their Lonely Betters


after W. H. Auden’s ‘Their Lonely Betters’


This is not a poem about a robin or a blackbird
for although I love birdsong, I’ve never heard
a song I can say for certain came from that bush
having looked quick enough to identify a thrush.

Their names are withheld from their songs
which fly freely about an ear that no longer longs
to sort out this chirrup from that trill
so I can distinguish this beak from that bill.

This muddle of medley is an anthem of all
and no proper name can answer each call
which remains unrecorded in its own shade,
undetonated by a signifier’s semantic grenade.

Let them leave language to this lonely better
who has struggled too long with nomenclature;
let me sing my own song, and hear what I can,
it will sound how it is – of robin, or of man.


Lisa Kelly

About Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly’s first collection, 'A Map Towards Fluency', was published by Carcanet in June. Her pamphlets are 'Philip Levine’s Good Ear' (Stonewood Press) and 'Bloodhound' (Hearing Eye). Her poems have appeared in 'Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back' (Nine Arches Press) and Carcanet’s 'New Poetries VII'. Lisa has single-sided deafness through childhood mumps. She is Chair of Magma Poetry and co-edited Magma 69: The Deaf Issue with Raymond Antrobus. She often hosts events at the Torriano Meeting House, London. Her poems have appeared in a range of magazines and anthologies and she has been longlisted twice for the Bridport Prize, and twice for the National Poetry Competition. She is currently studying British Sign Language and is a freelance journalist writing about technology and business.