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Matroyska/Four Ages

by claire burnett

I clear deadwood / gather discarded angle iron

pull away the suspended floor

of bindweed / revealing patio

another three rusting bike frames

I hear my mother speak to my daughter at the gate

without lifting my head I know

the younger woman holds her

infant on her hip / her grandmother

wears a summer skirt / fleece jumper / sunhat

pyjama bottoms / one faded red sandal

her other shoe / blue

when you pass your test you can take

me to the gardens at Hestercombe / my mother

was thrilled when you arrived

a girl / after the two boys

she’s such a lovely baby

I catch my hand on brambles/ blood traces

tributaries over my wrinkling skin

skin like my mother wore when

I was the girl / in the morning

the woman next door calls from over the fence

you're doing great work over there

I can see the roses again

are there olives on the tree?

her mother died in nineteen-eighty / I planted

the olive tree / I bought as a sapling

from Woollies / when my skin had the stretch

that my daughter’s has now


Claire Burnett explores wide-ranging themes including the natural world, family dynamics, grief, and the body. She investigates what it is like to inhabit a body where pain is dismissed by doctors and words are ignored. She is studying a part-time MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, the process of the course led to her late in life autism diagnosis. Her work has been included in the Culture Matters anthology The Cry of the Poor, Saraband’s anthology of Northern writing in place and nature, Spelt magazine, upcoming in Under the Radar and she was shortlisted for the 2022 Plough Poetry Prize.


Image by Bree Anne
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