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Where berries shine black, unseen creatures rustle,

he says, ‘What are you hiding in your basket?’

She lowers the hood of her woollen cape.

‘Only cheese, milk, bread, for an invalid.’


                 from; No Going Back by Lesley Burt






A Fairytale
A View of Fanelli’s,
Collecting for the Pensive Couch
Couldn’t Happen to Heidi
The label on my suitcase .
No Going Back
Red Lipstick
Your Own Four Walls




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Lesley Burt


Lesley Burt lives in Christchurch, Dorset. She is working on an MA in Creative Writing (Distance Learning) at Lancaster University. Her poetry has been published online, especially by Poetry Kit, and in magazines and anthologies including Tears in the Fence, The Interpreters House, Sarasvati and The Cinnamon Anthology. Her chapter, ‘Considering connotation: the impact and implications of language in poetry’ is included in Teaching Creative Writing (2012) ed. Elaine Walker.







A Fairytale



I strut into the ring; bow without humility

towards each segment of audience,

throw off my feathered cloak.


The men climb first, ripple like caterpillars

straight up rope ladders. But I pose,

point silken ballet toes,

twirl and sparkle on every rung. 


I hear gasps each time I swoop, sighs

when the catcher clasps my wrists,

cheers for upside-down manoeuvres.


Every girl envies my sequins,

pink-and-silver like the ballerina

in the Nutcracker; or Tinkerbell in thin air.


At school next day, in navy gym knickers,

but still under the circus’ spell,

I wobble along the balance-beam;


surprise friends with my account

of last night’s performance.


A View of Fanelli’s



He huddles in a doorway,

stares at the pizza place

the other side of the street.


To the left of the shop front:

a cold-drinks machine,

lit up, lined with cans;


to the right: a Christmas tree

flashing tinsel shivers among

stars on the window;


cars and motorbike parked

at the kerb appear among them,

dim shapes among lights.


For a moment all these seem  

to be in one bright room. Some

must be outside, like him.

Collecting for the Pensive Couch



Perhaps I used to feel cheated

out of advance glimpses 

of station platforms, banks

dotted with buttercups; watching

them rush towards me before

they flashed into the past.


But travelling backwards
I notice, close against the window,
colours are stripes of dark and light
that distance opens into detailed
shades and shapes of leaf-green,
blue-and-cloud, brick-and-tile.


I learn to savour reverse:
sideways glances at trees, cattle,
container wagons; back gardens
reaching bean rows towards me;
children on swings and tennis courts;
the way they all linger while I travel on.




Couldn’t Happen to Heidi



It was

goat, the

tinkling stink of


the chime of

milk into



was the

rise of

rocks, snow

mingling sky with


the falling

on ice,




slope of hut

floor, slide into

straw bed;

touch of




was grandfather.


The label on my suitcase ...



... reminds me I do not belong.

Outside, sky darkens over a line

of could-be-anywhere mountains.


Electric light casts shadows around

plain walls, plain carpet, plain curtains;

and the chair with no cushion


where I drop my wrap. I perch

on the king-size bed, careful

not to rumple its dull coverlet;


turn sideways from my Buick

parked by the window. Wait.

Anticipate that knock at the door.


 (After ‘Western Motel’, Edward Hopper, 1957, Yale University Art Gallery)

Let’s Just Imagine You



had inherited leggy genes, narrow hips,

Jean Shrimpton hair, a way of walking

as if you owned the gaff; a Mama Cass –

even a Suzie Quatro – voice;

painted like Riley,

sewn like Westwood,

written like Duffy;


had taken that scholarship place:

sat for GCSEs at the school-for-girls

among Diplomatic Corps vowels;

bussed home every day, while boarders

sat in the Common Room for prep;

done what your dad said.

Hadn’t got pregnant.




No Going Back



A man with shiny shoes and Don Giovanni voice

stops her on the path through ferns and brambles –

far from the smoky room, the sooty pans –

under trembling trees that reach for open sky.


Stops her on the path through ferns and brambles,

where berries shine black, unseen creatures rustle.

Under trembling trees that reach for open sky,

she raises the hood of her woollen cape.


Where berries shine black, unseen creatures rustle,

he says, ‘What are you hiding in your basket?’

She lowers the hood of her woollen cape.

‘Only cheese, milk, bread, for an invalid.’


He says, ‘What are you hiding in your basket?’

Rooks circle on wide wings; perch, croak, watch.

‘Only cheese, milk, bread, for an invalid.’

The sun sinks, moon rises: she follows him.


Rooks circle on wide wings; perch, croak, watch,

far from the smoky room, the sooty pans.

The sun sinks, moon rises: she follows him:

a man with shiny shoes and Don Giovanni voice.






Annelie picks plums, tiptoes among

windfalls that quiver with gorging wasps.


She mixes flour, butter, eggs, milk, yeast,

pummels her dough with plump palms and fists,

stands it by the warm stove, then stones and halves fruit.

Sits while the dough rises, does not read

her magazine, hardly hears the radio. At last,


with dough rolled, plums arranged, fingers licked,

the baking: she inhales the scent of bubbling juice;

ignores a buzzing inside the window. Waits.

He comes home for coffee. She slices cake,

piles it with whipped cream from the Bäkerei.


His breath tastes of beer as he holds her chin,

thrusts against her. A wasp stings her wrist.



Red Lipstick




Unseemly                     for a corpse,

so they use                   the pink,

pad and                        powder her cheeks,

assist limbs                   into gauze.


One of her                    visitor snips a rose

from the                        bouquet scenting

the Chapel                    of Rest, places it

near her chin,                drips a tear.


The other                      says at least they

made her                      look like a lady

in the coffin                   dress; no doubt

she would have chosen black lace.





For a corpse, unseemly the pink

they powder; her cheeks

pad into gauze, assist limbs.


Visitor snips a rose, one of her

bouquet scenting rest; drips

a tear near her chin;


says at least the other looks like

a lady made her coffin dress,

no doubt, black lace.





Pattern of components,

glued by embalming fluid,

costumed so everyone

knows exactly who is about

to break back to dust.


Yet she, lying to attention,

is not the one they knew.

Virginal dress, pastel lips,

are not responsible: utter

stillness is the transformation.


Your Own Four Walls



Above your own voice, footstep,

creaky chair, clatter of cups,

saucepan lid’s rattle, steaming kettle;


close as television news of

refugee, hostage, hurricane,

Booker Prize, Oscar;


rafters stretch, shrink, sigh beneath

sun and frost; roof tiles quake

in northerlies; gutters spill over.


Beneath your walls, strata:

river bed, hunting ground.

Neolithic flint slices skins, then


pushes up through orchard,

golf course, theme park,

building site,


to your footings, your home,

where you hang posters of

Saxon skeletons. 





The poems were all published in 2014, as follows:

A Fairytale in May Day, ed. Jan Fortune, Cinnamon Press Anthology 2014

A View of Fanelli’s, Let’s Just Imagine You and Your Own Four Walls

in Sarasvati No. 034, ed. Dawn Bauling, 2014

Collecting for the Pensive Couch in May Day, ed. Jan Fortune, Cinnamon Press Anthology 2014

Couldn’t Happen to Heidi in Lunar Poetry, Speug Publications Ltd, eds. Paul McMenemy, August 2014

The label on my suitcase ... published online by Long Exposure, Oct 2014 http://longexposuremagazine.com/2014/10/14/two-poems-by-lesley-burt/

No Going Back in The Interpreter’s House No. 55, ed. Martin Malone, 2014

Pflaumenkuchen received 3rd place in the Chipping Sodbury Poetry Competition, June 2014

Red Lipstick in Tears in the Fence’ No. 60, ed. David Caddy



4 - Afterword

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