Three Poems by Frances Boyle


Water flowing underground, and a handprint on rock
shocks you awake to the nearness of the distant child/
woman/man/human. What surfaces? The unconscious
swimming upward. What won’t stay buried rises
through rocks, rough-ridden and rusty. Volume within
sound, the cavern’s vault reaches. A wrapped bone-kit, within
an urn, within a box, within a crypt. Tombs and chambers.
Grave goods: treasure below, small amber objects to pocket.
What flows beneath our surface lives? The honoured dead
or submerged horrors, the grinding feel as fist-sized shards
shift, lodge you ever deeper. Close dank touch of cave-breath,
trickle of phosphorescence. Blind white fish, white forms
in the underground river. Trace fossils, only an imprint.


Salty tracks crusty on her cheek, a shimmer
silvers her despair. Awakening only to roll
silent beneath the rusty ruched cape, once his,

now her only cover. Admonishments fall
into her palms. A curtain of openwork
—net or gauze—is ripped where once

he grabbed at it in his pain, for balance.
Leaves, sparse outside the window, semaphore
daylight. It opens her shuttered depths, a fumble

to recall what she tried to say to him. Words
weave their import in waft of sunlit lace.
That rending of crewelwork most eloquent still.


fingers crossed
girls squeal run away
mock fear
real shunning
backs turned
tasks set for her
(to fetch them candy
to cheat or not)
faint hope of entering
an inner circle
or what appears so
but is only the outermost
layer, onion
skinned waiting

practicing casual pose
leaning on walls
by the boardwalk
learning to stand in
line just a little
behind the jostling
whispering crew
their allegiances
and exclusions

don’t care don’t care
ragged throat insists
beneath covers
a sink into library
pages velvety
from the turning
of hands

Frances Boyle is the author of two poetry books, most recently This White Nest (Quattro Books, 2019) as well as Tower, a novella (Fish Gotta Swim Editions, 2018) and Seeking Shade, a short story collection (The Porcupine’s Quill, forthcoming 2020). Her writing has appeared throughout North America and in the U.K. Recent and forthcoming publications are in Best Canadian Poetry, Blackbird, Vallum, Parentheses Journal, The /tƐmz/ Review, The New Quarterly and Twist in Time

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