TWO POEMS – Charley Barnes

Image: Lee Krasner – The Seasons (1957)

Charley Barnes is a Worcester-based poet and author who has recently gained her Doctorate degree in Creative Writing and now spends her days wondering what to do with it. Charley’s debut short story collection, The Women You Were Warned About, was published in May 2017, and her debut poetry pamphlet A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache was published earlier this year. 

These poems by Charley Barnes are also featured in Issue Two of Porridge, available for purchase here.

Taking my disability for drinks

I drink a blend of vodka, cranberry juice,
and amitriptyline. My stomach is a cocktail shaker

where pills clap together like ice cubes.
Later pink fluids will tumble out of my mouth

and I will catch them in an angular toilet bowl,
float a too red cherry in amongst plastic capsules

that I haven’t digested yet; one or two are still
whole, the powder stashed inside.

I will sleep for ten hours after this evening
but I will be exhausted for days. I’ll call in sick –

cancel plans and double my painkillers.
Nights out aren’t what they used to be.


Visiting you

We wash up to our elbows, pull on ill-fitting scrubs
and face guards fashioned from paper.
Your nurse sees that I’m already shaking; she wraps
a platitude around my shoulders for warmth.

“Everything will be just fine.”
I want to ask her if that’s legally binding.

The temperature is different inside your room.
I tell myself that you’re not too cold, too hungry –
you are in ideal environmental conditions.
And I forget that we are surrounded by nurses,

funhouse mirrors and over-polished windows, plastics.
When I reach out to you my fingers concertina
against the wall of your new home. To prevent infection,
I suppose, but you already have everything I have in me.


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