by Ruth Jenkins
her fingers bleed from the picking.
girl of summer canal-bank dirt:
black plastic bags, long feathers,
nest of gaudy ties, torn skirts. no, you can’t.
not again this time.
her basket is full. her skin
red with the juice of the fruit that grows by the
high humming wires, raw brick and flies.
we sit cross-legged. slash lines
in all our childhood dresses.
the water carries songs in her voice
the sky is not a liar but did he come back
hold out your hand
and i’ll tell you the truth
the stream is not a liar but did he. come back.
we have our own baskets packed to the brim
we drink the day hot and sweet and full.
the sea is not your lover but did he
and i’ll tell you the truth:
her berries are the dark of the eye of the beast we gut every spring:
we knew you.
pale man at the front of the class, we turn
the first pages of your green-covered books.
you are saying. to a question asked when we weren’t
paying attention. no. not her. not again this time.
Ruth Jenkins writes speculative poetry and short fiction on cities, magic and deserted buildings. She works in a library in North London with a cat that sneaks up stair wells and mews for stories and milk.