The Orange in the Stocking
by Jane Burn
The scent of citrus fills the quiet room
as socks swing from the radiant mantelpiece –
a conga line of Nora Batty’s legs. Warmth
from the fireplace rises, dances them in its drift –
when we are asleep on Christmas Eve, they make
their own celebration, kick like a chorus line,
jingle their inner treats. Inside each toe, a bulge –
year after year, tradition places it there. It waits
to be discovered, to offer its sweet to our lips.
Hull it as you would a brightly packaged gift.
It’s sharp, delicious taste cuts through this day
of bloat and richness. Here are vitamins,
here is something not foil-bound, not factory-bred,
its bauble plucked from a laden tree. Pips swim
the juice of its breast, tell a story of birth. It’s wrap
will nourish compost, not clog up landfill with scrap.
Thumb the centre, pare away each jewel. The segments
were made to be offered. It asks to be shared.
The Year of Abandoned Self
by Jane Burn
I am become entirely used to the things my head invents –
they might be visions of futures, of secrets, of hell. They might
be prophetic – I ought to be writing them down. William Blake
saw angels in the trees – if it’s alright for him, it ought to be okay
for me. Ezekiel saw wings and faces, wheels in wheels. I saw
this murky figure unfurl beneath a motorway bridge, clung like a bat,
one time I was tired near Gatwick, late at night. His lips were bone,
his spew of garbage laughter spilled like sick – I think he was waiting
for me to crash. I saw bundles of sheep as I walked on the path,
candy rainbow colours fleeced their happy backs – they were made
from pixels, tiny squares of bubble and bright, like a Super Mario zoo.
They smiled as I put my boot to their heads, trying to tamp them down –
it was a mockery. I saw a leather wingback chair melt around my friend,
the burgundy run like blood – she had no idea, just drank her tea,
told me this and that, all nonsense, of no matter fluff. I thought
I want to go home. If I stay longer, she’ll drown. I have given up
thinking I have edges – I am soft as sea-mumbled stuff. I am meld.
Listen to my rambling. All the ghosts – infestations in the corner
of my eyes like wisps, like smoke, are with me all the time. I’m
a poor man’s Gormenghast, bargain basement Gundabad – come
to the home of the cracked. I saw road signs pluck from tarmac roots
and run along with my car, grins on their flat metal faces, mouths
made of zeroes, eyebrows made from fives. We sang it’s a small world
after all, that Disney thing – quite merry, considering that I’m properly
fucking mad. Imagine keeping such secrets when you are dying to tell.
The dogs help root through the woodpile for clues – they believe
in everything I say, that’s how I know I’m right. I can’t remember
stashing all this broken glass. The woodlice nest like a plot, flit
like troubled consciences, out of sight. I am paranoia, I am Armageddon.
I’m beautiful, I’m a dungeon. I’m the second coming of Christ.
This poem was first published in Strix.