Zoe Green: Letters Unsent

Zoe Green


Salt is how you taste and

Tarred rope of frayed hair at

Arm and groin as if I’m

Swimming I suck quick cold

Breaths and dive pearls until

I drown a seagull’s cry

In sheets of sweated foam.

You are, my love, rills of

Honey hair dripping down

The plunging mattress cliff

Where we lately made our love

Baltic eyes swimming shut

Under thin pink cowls of skin

A smile a scallop

Slinting wide upon the

Evening’s dune of jaw.

Huevos Rancheros

For breakfast you cook huevos rancheros

Learnt from a girl on a band tour twenty years ago,

Stolen now to a skyline flat with

Crouched windows, slipslant roof; scribbled

Stick men on the fridge by absent Joe,

His medals piled proudly on our shelves

In front of Mitchell and Amis and co;

In the bedroom, the pink feather duvet

Rumpled; a black and white photo

From the days when you were a star,

Long haired with a girl red-tressed who

Looked like me, and a bass guitar.


In bed, eyes half shut,

Cat in the sun; smell caught.

The box of biscuits

You couldn’t afford

Tasting of dust.

Long johns beneath your trousers

To keep out the cold.

Conversations half-way toward dawn,

In a dishwater sky.

You chiselled every line,

Inscribed yourself on the night.

Beautiful lion, big glitter of love.

You make me feel

Invincible but you could obliterate me

With a word.


The night I’m cursed,

You paint my back,

My buttocks red;

Your prints, my blood;

Animal scratches

On moonbathed skin.

Pink blossom on a neon street

Delights you, ‘Look,’ you pulse, ‘look!’

Quietly I am glad you notice these things too.

Sitting side by side over Africa,

I say something and you look at me,

Then look away; then back at me and laugh,

And it is the biggest, brightest beach of a laugh

I’ve ever heard.

Apple Parings

“We can’t stay here all night”;

The wings of his collar nip my neck.

The wind hurls snowflakes in spirals

While our legs in a single stem

Grow up against the bar.

Now we grow up the crooked stair

And pare our skins while

In terror I try

To pin your face to his;

Later I find

The black silk sash of my dress

Coiled cold and stiff in the snow

A thing that has died in the night;

I come home to you asleep in the dawn,

The light still on,

And the phone by the bed.

Eclipse and the End of Love

Naked, we peel sticky slivers of bark

From orange stone

Stuffing them into our mouths that

Swell with sweetness.

Our lips, sugar-glossed,

Close hot and edible on each other’s.

In delinquent pleasure we

Eat the moon away which at

Ten o’clock hangs heavy in the sky,

Veined and marbled as a gourd.

Ten past and it’s lost its bottom,

Bit off by an invisible mouth.

Half past and it hangs empty-wombed

Hungry into darkness;

The clock strikes, and only a

Rust-red stain remains, a tongue

Edged with a row of teeth. Sated,

We sleep.

Editions du Désastre

You broke the picture of the lovers when

You turned away last night. Heave of mattress –

Glass and slashed photograph through the gap

Between bed and wall.

On the spring day by le quai,

Blossom speckled river; the spectacled nun

Averts her head as the man presses

His hands, bends in, drinks, and

She, hair loosening on the wind, lifts her chin and kisses and kisses.

These flowers by the cheval:

Did you buy them? Your bedroom looks nice, and

The new mirror, but you don’t look pleased to see me.

Since December you’ve changed:

We’re awake all the long night long,

Side by side, staring up at the velvet dark.

Dawn Departures

You stack flack jacket and keffiyeh,

Into the grey plastic crate, ABC Baghdad;

Scrunch clothes into tubes,

Denude The Seven Pillars of its jacket –

Though you say it will be dusty there,

And hot, forty degrees – hence the sandals

And the desert scarf and the baseball cap.

The flex of your arms,

The sickle of skin at the base of your back:

You bend and push and tuck and fold.

I read by your absent expression

That you left many hours before.

A goodbye kiss, a three point turn

(Foot too hard on the gas);

In my rear view mirror

You watch me

Stalling still.

At home the redskin nuts I roasted

When you were here,

The books on my desk, last touched

When you were here,

And a corner of paper with your writing on.

I’m cycling to the shops when there’s a roar

Overhead and the white belly of a plane soars

Towards the Levant.

Zoë Green is a young writer and poet, born in Scotland and currently based in the south of England. She won the 2004 Harpers and Queen Orange Prize for Short Fiction after being shortlisted for Vogue New Young Writer of the Year. Her stories and poems have been published in The London Magazine, Untitled Books, Tales of the Decongested, Cutting Teeth, Harpers and Queen and Litro. She has also written for The Observer, The Financial Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, The Independent, Literary Review and The Institute for War and Peace.

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