Polly Walshe was born in London. Recently her poems have appeared in Shearsman, Artemispoetry, The Spectator, Snakeskin, The High Window, The Frogmore Papers and The London Magazine and she has poems forthcoming in PN Review and iamb. This year she was highly commended in the Frosted Fire poetry pamphlet competition and in 2019 she was the winner of The Frogmore Prize. In 2019 and 2020 her poems were listed in the National Poetry Competition (UK). Her novel The Latecomer (Random House 1997) won a Betty Trask Award.

A Relief

To sense that there are many things

To know there is at least
One other thing

To have an edge

To go from here to there
Or stop

So lonely it would be
To know no other place

No departures gate
Or garden space
For all the seasons of the world
To grow
And morning’s breath
To breathe across

Can you feel it
On your cheeks
Your hair?

Why are you so restless if not?

Why do you sigh like that
Or laugh for no reason you can think of?

Even the rich man’s systems feel it
The postures of his clock

The markets bend and flutter
When it touches them

As if a hearse were passing
Or a meteor

Sunday Nights

What if
The weekend done

I took my coat and walked the town
Past all the decades where we used to live

Gazed from wet pavements
Into each lit house

Saw things we used to own
And you

Inside that lost domain
Your Springsteen years unravelling again

And if

I stopped at that last basement flat
Drew your attention with a tap

But when you turned to look
Watched you dissolve

Could hear you singing
Never get to you?

The Bandaged Man

Should I fail to imagine
I will fall back down

White legs thrashing in green water

A wave that reached up
But not high enough

I thought I saw the future’s face
A casement flash
A sequin of escape

Stretched up
Not high enough

A night bird calling
Drew me down
The sadness of the wise
The gravity of slaughter

I phoned the man
That bandaged man
About the restless water

Said, should I leave the water?
How hard should I try
To leave the water?

Under the wars, the thorns
His skin had bled, was raw
His kind voice said he couldn’t help me now
He had so many callers
But he would hold the line for me

He held the line
I talked
I talked like nevermore
White legs thrashing in green water

Want Not to Want

I want it now but soon I won’t
I hope

Not to want
I want

To cast off want
That snake’s integument
That felted duffle coat

What will be wanting?
Oh not to want!

Want not
I want
I hope

I want it now but soon I won’t

Won’t want not
Won’t not want
Won’t want


Status Update

These days
You’re not right in your mind
You shop for fripperies online
You try to detach, you try
But every night you wear a jagged crown
And spin till withered dawn
Your Brontë time

You practise when awake
The profession of scorn
You see two blackbirds in the gutter fighting
Identify with how they like disliking

There may be a freestanding dimension
A California of the heart
But you don’t know how it operates
If you’d fit

This Egypt’s where you mainly live
Men blather with the blunt seams of their mouths
Women’s faces show what time it is

You have your children but you bleed
What are you really but an open wound?
No one can see your pinkish pulsations but you
The stretched provisional skin
Refusing to set
The way you wrap it with soft lint
But thorns jab in

You go on
You go on

In the shadow of meaning
Aspens quiver with fright
The hutched owl peers and twitches
Your stock of hours runs down