Arabella Watkiss is a poet based in London. She came to Manchester to study on the Creative Writing MA after an English Literature degree at the University of York. She is interested in the truth of experience and the realities of 21st century relationships, and is currently rewriting mythological sexual assault narratives (including the stories of Penelope and Leda) and a libretto based on Lorca’s La Casa de Bernarda Alba, which will be performed at The Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester in September. She has recently been appointed Academy Assistant at Faber and Faber.
The Medusa Jellyfish
It lay limp on the wet sand,
sweating under the sky, tentacles splayed
around its central neon clover.
A silver sun, already dead,
the boys ran to cut out its heart.
They took stones to it, slashed it open,
ripped out veins mapped under
the hooded skin. They threw at each other,
chunks of the mesoglea, sucking their salty fingers;
never once touched its sting,
soft venomous capsules, like lucent, orange
One of the boys pulled white from her body,
sticky necklaces hanging from his fingers.
She didn’t look at him
as he left; as he got bored
with the violence and went
to play another game.
Days later, the pale sun hung low in the sky;
striated cliffs scored the skyline
and the waves kept coming in.
The jellyfish was alive,
gently contracting in the water, all its organs intact.
It floated away on the ocean current.
On Car Crashes
That last, uncompromising day, we sat
on the hill above your hometown,
watching the wildflowers
turn to dead, black crowns:
they rocked on the horizon.
When you left, it wasn’t
ships breaking their bodies
on the island rocks
or a girl hit by metal
weight going 90,
bones through her flesh
like a cook de-boning a raw, white fish.
It was an old boat, anchored by
where we first kissed,
yellowed under sun, holed hull
letting the water in.
It was underwhelming.
It was like breaking out of a
prison cell when the door had been left open.
It wasn’t a collapsed lung;
it was Pleurisy, then Pneumonia.
I had to take shallow
breaths for weeks.
It wasn’t like we wanted to kill each other.
It wasn’t all those pricks
my friends have dated.
It wasn’t a car crash.
That, you weren’t.
So I wanted you to stay, naturally.
On Losing Grandad
He lies in the blue room,
thick eyelids like dimpled gyoza, lipping his eyes,
dull pearls that stare not into mine.
Red veins diverge under the sick skin and
I’m reminded of the tiny red spiders
we found on brick walls as kids.
Sometimes we crushed them with our fingertips.
One day, we let them live, patrolling
the grainy bungalow wall in lines and rows.
A man in a suit walks in and tells me to take my time
but I, awkward, don’t want to make a nuisance
of myself, so I hurry the goodbye.
I look round the room, blue and full.
A glass heart that we bought for him in the beginning
hangs from the window, refracting the sunlight.
I kiss Grandad as I am told and under my lips
his skin has hardened, like the surface of a candle
just run out of wick, still soft from burning underneath.
I make sure I watch him the whole time,
as they carry him out into the drizzling cul-de-sac.
I watch as they slide his body into the van,
willing myself to remember
what he looked like and how this felt,
so I can say that I saw him out.
Arabella can be reached at email@example.com