Pauline Rowe, whispering like a wound -poetry

Story of a Rented House

It was made of ice-cream, at a glance.
No house should be yellow. We knew it
and said nothing.

We were foolish to lie there,
to make love and think the walls
would keep our secrets.

The place made notes and sent
regular reports to his mother
who placed a curse on my foolish head.

The telephone wires took messages
from the snow queen, played the words
back in his dreams so he thought me a traitor.

He sat in the dark as I worked in the evenings
as the windows closed like the eyes of the dead.

I left early one night as
I heard him call my name. I swear.
But he was not there,

he was not outside,
he was not in any room,
he was not making music,

he was not waiting
for me

he was not waiting
he was not ever waiting
ever waiting
ever again.


She can’t renounce the colour of his shirt,
its warp, its weft, the slightest scent of it
how, like a ghost, the movement in his hands
roots out, haunts her history in the dark.

His lips, the gentlest breath now finds her skin
draws a careful map; how transparent loss
can only be observed when certain light
catches it, the ink of night in traces

embroidered by creatures with slow purpose
as though the tiny light of centuries
were threaded microscopically in stone.

Norman tapestries offer up their hands
yet of this holy shirt that held his back
just shade remains, remembrance of pale green.

Demeter’s Dedication

I go out to shoot everything
ahead of the hunt; foxes, rabbits, otters,
peacocks, doves, parakeets, macaws.

Red’s in everything, the ecstasy of summer gone:
my breasts ache with the memory of milk.
My daughter, blind to winter, turns her back

I smell the anxious dead gathering
to witness her return, hear cold sunshine
whispering like a wound, singing songs, telling tales.

I can, at least, describe this waiting,
testify against the lowest of the low –
that rancid, hollow, stinking thing
who stole her from the day
and calls himself a god.

I will make the mountains cringe,
the rivers boil with human dead,
colour them full of poisons, break out
from their boundaries, invite the busy harbours
to collapse, call the seas into cities,
command volcano dust to choke
the Western hemisphere,
invite ice to claim dominion
where it can.

I walk always, I have no choice
while she’s imprisoned in her crimson bed,
her dungeon in the underworld.

I liquefy the silver of the moon with mercury,
pour it like a jug of cream over the ocean.

I heard you crying in the dark
my beloved child, my girl.
He took away the lanterns,
snuffed out all the stars.

Across the continent, my grief of grief
becomes a dance of death.

©Pauline Rowe
photo©Stratos Fountoulis, «Shopping Centre 2013»


Pauline Rowe lives in Liverpool and works as Poet-in-Residence at Liverpool Mental Heath Services (Mersey Care NHS Trust). She also works on writing and well-being projects for the charity North End Writers. Her collection Waiting for the Brown Trout God (2009) was published by Headland Publications.
She has an MA in Writing and Reading Poetry and is in the first year studying (part-time) for a PhD at Liverpool University from Oct 2013, researching the uses of poetry in mental health services.
She has worked with a range of organisations including FACT, Liverpool Poetry Cafe, Shrewsbury House, Liverpool Library services, the Greenbank project, Tenantspin, BBC Radio Merseyside and Project 51. Contact: northendwriters@gmail