Three Poems – Eva Lewis


[Humans Channel 4, 2015]

Mother says what work
It would be to keep that thing round
the house. She straps on
The baby in public, latches to her vending
Machine, the creaming mouth
Full of her on-demand.

To come home and have
Dinner ceramic plated, steam greening
Above ventilated countertops. This dream
Is what her mother spent
Her career forgoing. It is not strange
Men who dream of such warmth
Coalescing in ovens, ripe for when
They get home. Women too dream
Of something grown independent
Of their labour. Perhaps a husband acting
A Sixties wife.

Mother says the revolution
Is metal tipped hips, mouths made
With the stuff used to barb
Fences electric terror. The revolution
Is past refurbished. The metallic look that’s all
The range. The someone who steams,
Sautés, sweeps and sanitizes you, a shinier version
Of woman. Mother says,
“innovative !, Ha !
If my mother frying
Vegetables ready for a sharpened six
O’clock was advanced, why is her pension
Less than a car that still
Needs you driving it ?”

Mother says Anita
Is just another baby girl
Prescribed real brainless,
She will have to wipe the feet of.

Opportunity, Almost

You asked me to imagine the world I would shut
My eyes and dream about. That unmade
My mother’s cries swollen as bruising
Over soft flesh. I would take that world any day.

The one where my mother walked out
And left his fists
Hanging mid-air. The rest of him stowed away
In pockets of scent. The ghosts coming through
Walls in the incarnation of voices, her heart ripe fruit
For his memory.

I would take the one battered fish lay on the table
Oozing sap of mushy peas. Iced birthdays organised
By parties. Mother holding my hand
On the walk home from school. The future
Not left up to prayer. A fantasy we window shopped
In other people’s living rooms. This future

There would be more of him
On the couch perhaps, fanning his headaches
With the cool of rest. Perhaps elsewhere
He never turned
Around on his boyhood, grown over
To twisted smiles steepening
The breaths in our house. Perhaps with good sleep

And less fractured success, it could have mended.
Not. But at least his job wouldn’t be the thing
To make my mother stay. The way money would
Disappear like humour. She would have snuck out,
Me in the belly of the duffle bag. We would have
Creamed our teeth on birthday cake and talked
About other things than silence.

I’ll tell you what happened, before the future
Came. She thrifted me after a bad
Argument, whilst we were out shaking
The swings. My grandma had a house, lent us her warm
Kitchen for the year. We slept
Like the sound was always on
The TV in the old house. And she worked
Until she could afford me

All to herself. Always the last one left behind
At after school clubs and discount store birthdays
I loved better than the old life. I like to think
If she hadn’t had work, she would have had me
On her lap more often. She would never have crouched
For a pay check, or filed her nails cleaning
More luxurious floors for a more reliable version
Of Home. Because she knew she could work
She left his fists stretching
To pattern our nightmares instead,
Almost beautiful.

Anthropocene Redacted

As echo departs
the inhabited conch. Sunset corrugates
the houseless sky. Mama says
300 prayers = a roof, so we get lisping
through our hands. Auntie says,
kneading the ash dark soil with palms, psalms,
is a planting. Not unlike a man
entering the earth. Long grasses dreadlocked
by growth. His bones could be the pollen
we breathe, that makes Leila’s nose
snap shut.

As conch is released from soft body,
echo re-inhabits, heart recites, breath
regurgitates. Sisters sparrow still won’t fly,
death sharpening its bones.
Wasps stick to the glitter
of sugar on our fingers, slurp us
like fruit. Before our teeth had ripened,
nanny would pass the unfinished pulp
between her teeth, chew on it
& give it to our open-cut mouths, like a word.

The sea is of course what echoes,
stripped of its shell & waving.
Its constant departure as it advances.
Shore corseted by the curve
of its smile-trimming encroachment.
Sister is born with her knuckles fastened,
a hand in foetal- a fist. My mother’s echo beating
where heart lives.

No one knows when darkness will overdose,
having swallowed moons bloated pill.
We carry our mother
in the pocket of a prayer. Sea retracts
the shore. Curdled by the hour.
We are children raised in much the same way
as voices cast to ceilings. Or bread, by furnace & browning,
hunched into the secret of our Nanny’s
genomic recipe. The way they march the dough,
her hands, the kick of them, to tenderise.

Styrofoam fills in the grooves
of the ocean. Prayers regular as meals.
We steal a glimpse of the magpie that lisps
our fortune. Look away too late.
Run at sorrow till it fly’s, buoyed quick
by a shooting breeze.

Mama says it won’t be long
before birds inherit gills. Ocean stretches
it’s joints. Crack. Like a mirror.
My face parted lips. No sound but the ripple
answering the wind.

Morning comes, plinths
an elongated sun. Shore sanitized,
so we castle our bodies in sand, till arms graze
with sunburn. Mama tells us sand
is the only grains we’ll have this year,
browned between steri-strips
of our toes. Fields cropped
to make new room for gravesites.
Grey tongues of memorial slabs stick out from the time
there was still enough mountain left
to stone the plots.

We try not to think about how we will bury
Nana. Our stomachs heavy
as though we had eaten.
We try not to think about the time we will stop planting
villagers. Snip the meat as brocade
for our plates instead.

The tale mothers us.
Sisters breasts dilate. She straps them on
with low cut cloth when the boys come to line
across Grandfathers forehead.
As though grief doesn’t know
anything about this.

I warn her about the prospective
of genes which will plow
inside of her, their echo.
The way a seed can be a searchlight,
with the centre scooped out.
How it was for me.
Stomach like risen dough. Then my mothers
bloated voice. Then keloid.
Patched & scabbed just outside the door.
I counted the slits between fingers & toes
like gills. More ocean than lung.

Mother sutures the wound of sister’s
ripeness in cloth. Each ripe fruit,
flesh orbiting a pit.
Sacked, she demands I be fastened too.
Grandfather steps in, “her shame
has already been bought.”

I notice the moon tonight, out of its full
pulse. Abdomen dislocated
somewhere, or carrying darkness
to term.
Only when our wombs had stopped their labour
did we return ourselves to land,
like unsatisfactory goods. Sun genuflecting
to the night, to douse its face
in waters relentless reign.

We hoped to re-cycle. Too late
to dispatch plastics, segregate papers
from foils. For the tide to redeem.
We arsenic ourselves
on the earths slow wick, practice breathing
in ocean. Stutter, lungs waterlogged.
We thought if we practiced.
But our skins keep getting caught
on sun, keep repenting in a swallowed shade.

My mother’s roll-on voice, ribs tilled
with hunger. These are the last things
at the end. Waves swinging
between our legs. We don’t try to stand straight.
The echo of our breaths slip out
of tune with water, re-coiling
as it quickens & fastens.

Eva Lewis is an emerging poet and writer from the North-West, UK. They are a self-taught poet, exploring mental illness, emotional inheritance, historical symmetries and neuro and gender divergence. Their work has been published among literary journals and anthologies including Y Gog: Surreal North Anthology; SINK Magazine; Cape Magazine; Young Identity: Ecosystems of Fury Anthology; their work is forth-coming in Homecoming Zine and others. They have performed with Amnesty International and as part of the Young Identity collective. IG: 

Banner The Sea, Reimagined, Anthropocene Version #1, Robert Frede Kenter (c) 2023. Twitter: @frede_kenter

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