The summer storms picked up more than a few wheelie bins – they’ve whisked away the whole of August and September too! Line your October nest with this shimmering selection…
Our lovely poetry editors Marnie and Clea have put together some of their favourite submissions from June. Read on for some beautiful queer love letters.
Looking for some poetic inspiration? Our poetry editors Clea and Marnie have picked out some of their favourites! Click through to read.
In March, we hosted our very first London Poetry Workshop and Open Mic! We were so inspired by your openness, engagement, and beautiful poetry – so much so that we would love to share what some of you have written here, for the rest of the community to see.
Malaika Kegode is an award-winning writer, performer and creative producer based in Bristol. Her work is focused on uplifting and celebrating the overlooked and misunderstood. Beginning her arts career as a performance poet in 2014, Malaika has since developed her practice to encompass theatre, radio and film writing.
Read the wonderful submissions for our free verse poetry callout, “Run On”…
From world-shifting crises abroad to major decisions and events taking place here in the UK, it’s no doubt been an overwhelming time. The task of creatively expressing our thoughts about such difficult times can often swallow our energy instead of fuelling it. That’s why we asked our readership to note down an emotional response to a current issue in no more than 5 lines. See them here!
My mother used to live on the moon.
She orbited my planet and controlled my weather.
She smiled in my sunshine, and soothed my monsoons
Until they were drizzle on my cheeks.
During the days she turned to smoke,
But like the tides she always came back.
She pleated my hair and spoke
Of faraway lands before bedtime.
She was forever leaving gifts on my doorstep,
And remembering my favourite colour.
She listened to my stories, and she spent
Her time on me, despite the distance.
My small arms reach out into the night and it seems
As though I could clutch that white speck in my palms.
My spaceman mother, a woman of dreams.
Robyn Barclay (she/her)
Masculinity is an old friend
I don’t think it’s fair to blame
My father who wanted a son
Or society who wanted
To treat me just a little worse
In truth, masculinity fit me well
For my sister, she claimed
The feminine through force
Pressed on nails and
Eyes winged perfectly
Despite protests or
Hollow calls against
But I couldn’t find space
for me with that paradigm
Until talking with a friend
He unraveled the gendered
Pointed out he was just a man
Who liked “feminine things”
Until the tarot brought me
The sun and the moon
Push and pull of tides
Both held within our husks
To give and to take
and to give again
When masculinity calls
Like an old friend, I answer
Remember times they held me
Moments they made me worse
But recollection not regret
Reminds me why
We don’t stay in touch
Magda Nawrocka-Weekes (she/they)
get out of my skin please
I want my crannies to nook for you
But you don’t even look
I want my biomap fingerprints to interlock with yours
Inexplicably the maze patterns slot in harmony
written for the other, waited two lifetimes for this chance meeting
Racing to the maze middle
I am discouraged
By your disinterest
Cheers or jeers would be preferable to this silence
I find myself the lone contender
You are unfit to adjudicate;
Trusting the leaves on the left
They lead me out
Guide me to the end of desire
The heartstrings that make up my right ventricle
You appear to have turned into a hammock
Summer months approaching
The sway pulling strings in all the wrong directions
Transcending my corp-Reality into a grotesque puppet mimicry
More and more it swings and stings and disrupts the flow from my head
unto my toe
And it isn’t red within, there’s translucence for dinner
This I know
Because a slice of me is cut for the prizewinner
The ones who made it to the middle grossly engorged
Their fingers ragged and wrecked from dragging through unforgiving foliage
bloated, bursting, not seen to be sightly
Unseen in safety, for he has forgotten me
And our fingertips never even touched
But the incessant twitch that makes me dream of itching the scratch right out of my chest
Is treated in waking like a Victorian asylum patient: tightjacket escape artists
My little lost mazerunners bravely perform their Sisyphean trope
and I traipse about too, comfort-grasping the lighter in my pocket closer to these wistful fingerprints.
Leah De Mey (she/her)
You almost ruined my favourite song
I listened to the Wombats today
Only to be taken back
To the dimly lit parking lot behind your flat in Cowgate
Pushing me against the wall and whispering into my ear
You say I am the best thing that you’ve ever seen
My bare back digging into the wall but
I could have stayed there forever
My very own New Jerusalem
The chorus of the song I sing to day and night
echoes from inside
So do cheers of people playing beer pong
They awaken us from our trance
There’s nowhere to hide
1,2,3, time to dance
When we enter everyone takes out their flashlights pointing them at us
My head is in the clouds and my Converse in the gravel of the parking lot
You on the contrary
are on one knee
can hear my heart breaking
This is all that I used to want
And now all I can think of is
You just ruined my favourite song
The greek tragedy of all of this is
You thought you were buying tickets
To see a romantic comedy
But I turned out to be your Antigone
Flash-forward and I’m walking through the all too familiar streets
As a prisoner sentenced to live my life
On the land from which you’ve been exiled
The smell of smoke
From when we burned with bad intentions
Still fills my nose
On days like these
I write you endless poems you will
My headphones blasting that one song by the Wombats
If you ever see this
Please let me know
When you hear that song
Do you still sing along?
The scene has been set: museum opening,
The artist: Chinese, come to London last spring,
The decor’s exquisite, all gold and Art Deco,
Trays of canapés, tall-stemmed flutes of Prosecco,
At the room’s centre, she’s not hard to spy
With her red ruby mouth and her bright topaz eye
Head thrown back and laughing, with her hand at her neck,
Hair a tight bob, hands with gold rings bedecked
In a fur coat and brocade (all vintage – all thrift)
Wrists jangle with bangles (Tracy Emin’s – a gift)
She’ll glide through a room like she’s riding a breeze,
Kiss and cry “My, I’ve not seen you since Frieze!”
She’ll hug and address you with “darling” and “dear”,
But don’t flatter yourself: she knows everyone here.
She’s up at Tate or she’s down at the Met,
At Cornelia Parker’s, smoking french cigarettes,
Or out in South London, where that new Dutch film’s showing,
Or a night out in Hackney – if Grayson Perry is going.
Hostesses and hosts supplicate at her feet,
Beg her presence at this show or that meet-and-greet,
With her social grace, though, this isn’t so shocking,
Her sparkling wit keeps enchanted mobs flocking.
She’ll check the black book where her diary’s kept,
Ignore it, smile archly, then warmly accept.
A crowd is a challenge, but she fears not the test:
For these are her people; this is what she does best.
By Levi J. Richards (he/they)
Instagram: @levijrichards and @doorajarcomics
We are all beating
Walking is an something I return to a lot
I once read we walk at the rate our heart beats
And create a cacophony with the ground
That matches the organ keeping us alive
Imagine if we all would walk in step
The earth would be one huge heart
Vibrating with the beating of billions
On walks I see a lot of leaves
Always in winter and I want to imagine
each leaf inside has a tiny heart
That pumps water and nutrients and juice
Through each capillary
I see squirrels and pigeons and gulls
I think of their beating hearts
The continuous rhythm
That propels one squirrel on her circuitous round.
A heartbeat moves in a cycle of seasons
Offering hope when all has gone awry and
the next day is so far away
Our hearts beat steady under our skin
Invite a beginning with the end of each step
A terrible chance
To liberate the me
from my four walled room
And flex my toes and think of gravel paths
That my feet can wander.
I like to begin
fresh from the next beat
And follow each route
my heart wants me
to feel and to see
the million hearts beat
the leaves and the trees
Tug me on a thin thread
when you’re feeling down
and don’t know how to take care
of yourself, go to where they sell plants.
quiet your heart. let the smell
of their freshness fill you.
reach out and touch their leaves.
one will find you.
don’t force it to, just
let it commune with the hurt inside you.
take it home. find it a spot in the sun.
water it, feed it, nurture it, let it grow.
let it take care of you as much as you
take care of it.
by august (in the wake of) dawn
Yellow is the warmest colour,
It crowns the buds of trees which create an ornate bower consecrating your grease and grime filled nest,
Lying on your head,
Happiness and yellow usually reside in similar company,
But happiness with you is a deep crimson,
A thick skinned purple blotch –
Staining my skin like a malignant bruise,
You seep into every pore, boiling my sweat so it scolds melanin,
Bleaching me to a powdery white,
Perfuming your air with the scent of burnt flesh,
Pulling my spirit into focus,
Because as I know –
Purple is your favourite colour on me.
My roots are complicated
I do not think they can be defined
or bound to one certain place
The more I move and meet new people
little parts of me are left around
Sown carefully and lovingly
in places I adore
and people I care about
I am no longer sure if I know where home is
but I am loving that life is taking me down
an unknown road
but an exciting one
and I will enjoy and treasure every step of the way
Learn from the downhills
grow stronger and kinder and caring
and cherish the uphill
knowing I am turning into the woman I was meant to be
I read a whole novel this morning,
An hour before heading in.
I did all the dishes from breakfast,
You hoovered and I did the bin.
The walk from the meeting was freezing,
But I’d bought new gloves last time you came,
Two people who knew me from James Joyce alone,
Asked me about changing my name.
I’m finding it strange to be calm now,
My body’s not quite sure it’s true.
But books still surprise me and gloves are still warm,
There’s dry forks and filled forms, and you.
By Levi J. Richards (he/they)
This poem is inspired by ‘The Orange’ by Wendy Cope. To see more of Levi’s creative work, check out @doorajarcomics on instagram.
A young man walks across the snow,
Which creaks and breaks with every step.
A grey-haired woman holds her face up
To a sun that drips gold;
A future, suddenly,
Which stretches out before him —
Into sun, and face, and cold;
And benches ringed with mud,
And time enough to grow old.
Reshuffling cards on the sitting room floor,
A precious vignette – 6 seconds, no more.
Captured by luck,
On an ordinary day,
I press play and press play and press play.
I’m fascinated, by the way you can hear,
Each one of our laughs – you can match us up clearly.
Like you can pick out
A friend’s face in the crowd of the noise.
“It’s all gonna work out. D’you know how I know?’
‘Fate’s given me something too good to let go.’
So she’ll bring me back,
I know it for sure,
To the cards on the sitting room floor.
CW: Sexual assault/violence
A poem about roots (that constrain me)
Why do you grip that rock there
That place in particular
It is not exceptional yet you sniff
to find the resource jackpot with little thought for my feelings.
One flaking and one green
You are Brand new
colonising my mind and making my forces act through different lines
Where do I lean today
On what soil do I make my stance;
I want to move yet you tell me I can’t
And they look at me funny and it is all due to you
Lost in assumption not to be talked
To but by, they see how I curl and retract
Wishing I could fly but indelibly in contact
with the ground of my past
Each little xylem strand has length running resources
to change and nourish my self.
And I regret you
You are unsatisfactory
For keeping me so still
Retaining my right to freedom.
I wish I could wiggle and dance.
Enact and be my dream
I steal the freedom to be who I want to be
A fairy woman at the end of a long voyage
My narratives an endless strand of silk
to wrap around your neck.
You see you would love the me
That’s exciting and proud and flamboyant
With endless presents and
pockets that bulge
I wiggle my wing rigs
and struggle to see how they care for me
grateful I should be for these life sustaining lines
for time and a past and events I can learn from
They connect me
Brushing up to me with knowledge
Drowning me in memories that
keep me so separate
I am an entity to sustain and condense
Yet not to be.
Cinnamon and saffron
A dash of cinnamon and one of saffron
What does blending the two leave you with?
I am not so sure
A hybrid not tasting like one or the other
I am a mixture
Rather pale but with olive undertones
Echoes of honey and of sweet rose syrup and mild summer nights by the Caspian sea
Meet echoes of winter sleigh rides and gingerbread dipped in hot mulled wine
They make sure to tell me that I am not one of them
Not pale enough, not dark enough
Too pale, too dark
Oh are you sure you’re from there?
Can you really speak the language?
Your accent is very good – how come?
I must grit my teeth and say what I always say
I belong here
I am you
Experiencing rejection from my own makes me restless
They are all I have
But I am made to choose
In the hope that I am chosen back
Can’t you see I’m one of you?
I dye my hair to make it less me – maybe now I can fit in?
I am uprooted and I uproot myself
I can never have enough
There is always something else for me to try
Some other soil to plant my yearning fingers into
I worry for my children
If I have any
Will they feel at peace? Will this be their norm?
Or will their discomfort be greater than mine?
A pinch of cinnamon and one of saffron
I must sometimes pull myself out of the whirlwind of sounds and smells and sensations
Take a moment to feel
Of how I have the riches of the world within one heart
How cultures mix and mingle within my blood
How I may not belong to either one of them
But have claim to both
A Bug’s Life
The house I grew up in has other children growing in it now,
Making memories over mine like recording over old video tapes,
Playing bandits and dress up in colourful capes.
The tree house my father built for me
Exists only in my memory.
It must be hard to be a snail.
Carrying a life on your back is a heavy load.
Take me back to a little girl with golden hair,
To number four, Parbroath road.
So I can set down my past and leave it there,
Trusting it will be safe.
A view from the kitchen window into another life,
Of happy kids, and man and wife.
Like us, the trees we planted are fully grown.
The apples fell closer than we thought,
But we should have known.
Because like us the trees have roots,
That wind like veins between drains underfoot.
But trees can be replanted,
The stability I took for granted
Can be something I find in myself,
Maybe after three years of healing,
I’ve learned that home is not a place,
It’s a feeling.
Robyn Barclay, Poetry Editor
Robyn is one of our wonderful poetry editors. Please contact her via instagram @rxbynelena if you would like to submit your own poetry to Clitbait!
An Ode to the Slimy Things in my Sink
I wet my porridge pot, the king
Of slimy things, and relinquish the responsibility
Into the heaving sink.
The glutinous onion jam from last night’s soup
Stares me down with shiny eyes—
I cover it with disdain,
Creating a small volcano of sink water.
Insidious drips pervade,
Unnoticed but for the smell,
but then In a couple of hours, the floor
floods, Littered like a polluted
The pots and pans are floating an
inch, The ramen from two nights past,
Grabbing my ankles, like irate
seaweed. The salt spills into the mix
And I might as well be in a fetid
ocean, Now that the mackerel,
In various stages of decomposition
Begin to swim up the pipes.
A mighty gurgling is heard—
I scramble to the kitchen table for survival
As a slew of wet food spurts forth from the sink. The
water is a murky shade of brine,
The teabags are swimming in shoals,
And I am finding myself swiftly covered In the
reeking remains of last week’s dinner.
Do you know how fast a hedgehog runs?
Night hangs and I, nocturnal, scout the grounds,
the hedgehog, shuffling insomnia-laden under the moon,
head among worms, I cannot see the astral dancers make their rounds,
trapped in a homeland of windswept grass and rainswept loam.
My patter a ritual, earth’s epidermis feigns a heavenly taste
yet so anti-celestial, living from night to night to night
mired, the entanglement of root and briar and living wasted,
ensconced in darkness, I’ve forgotten what it is to see the light.
The hedgehog senses predator, confronts her choices
tight entombment in a prickling shell, waiting for teeth,
or else to flee. Do you know how fast a hedgehog runs?
I curled so long I no longer remembered what it meant
to live without a spiny wall, self-made sarcophagus, dark and tight.
It took the gouge of jaws to make me race away, seeking freedom, seeking light.
We will hear noise, but we must listen to truth
I listen to the wind,
That rustles the leaves, and swings the trees
The voice of nature, that presides powerfully in Edinburgh.
I hear the cars,
That haunt the cyclists, trying to pass
Through life, without further deepening nature’s scars.
I listen to the laughter,
Revelling in that joy, that everyone is after
I hear the strain in her voice,
the pain that pillages her spirit and poisons her soul, with noise
Unnatural sounds, that seek to exploit and destroy
I listen to the beats,
that move my feet, to the rhythm of the streets
I hear her gulp and shudder
as he tells her he’ll give her a massage to recover
There is Nowhere to Runfrom the one who you believe has given you your liberation
I listen to the long unheard.
The marginalised, those erased from history and discarded in society to the outskirts.
For it is they who are embraced by nature
And when they embrace it in turn,
the oppression inflicted upon them can only harm the oppressors
For to be one with nature,
is to be one with the truth of who you are.
For you are nature,
And such truth will heal your scars.