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Two Poems by Helen T. Curtis

Updated: Mar 1

Helen T Curtis is a poet now settled in Derbyshire but with roots in the South of the country. Having escaped the London suburbs to study in Wales, she spent a good part of her life among the chalk hills of the South, and by the sea. Coast and river landscapes inform a good deal of her writing; recent work has also explored waters and weathers of the heart. Poems have been written over a time of personal joy and grief within her family, negotiating loss and new birth, as well as in excavating a long-buried personal history. Her poetry has been published in several journals including ArtemisPoetry, Dreich, The OSP Review, Indigo Dreams, Ink, Sweat and Tears and anthologies. Helen has studied widely, including gaining degrees in German and English, the latter 1st Class Hons. She has been studying with Dr Kirsten Norrie at the OSP for more than four years, which has culminated in a significant body of work: a collection, Tides, Elemental, which is due to be published by Broken Sleep Books in January 2025.



PYRE

 

When rage is undertow,

slack, slag-black and drag of shingle – ignite

the spoil-heap – conjure

flame

to leap, a living sea,

its roiling peaks whipped high.

 

Cast your curses to dance in tongues

violet, gold,

not agape, like clotted fish.

 

As brilliant pyres flung heroines

to bespatter night sky,

make fire, transmute bleak death,

make flame.





IN-CARCERATION


Transposed       I learn again to smoke.

The only way to breathe there    was to blow

hoops of me to peer through       to burn away

the greasy taste of fear   observe

 

little stacks of ash in place of gaze

take off dove grey         in circled exhalation.

 

I breathe myself absent  in this strange place

spiral away from this oval table  and rise above  

these strangers who I seem to know        shush out molecules of me

grey white        ghost white       into air  to not be here.

 

Wreaths to ride in I made us      woven in atmosphere

purified in burning                    I learned it young

to be subsumed in cool blue shroud

scented white flake of my burning mouth   eyes

little tipped piles of hate

 

and my self       evaporated over and over           in spiral writing

as though these trails of scribbled air

wove a carpet to ride away                     barely there

(and you refused

and the last halting breath you never took

but stopped dead one night far from home          and alone

and I here waiting).

 

I incinerate myself white ash they left me

tiny tipping stacks of cinder       each time

the fire  due to ignite                  snuffed

at the oval table and your face and my

escape in shame and dismay of smoke.  

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