La Rochelle by Anne Gill

Anne Gill’s poem ‘La Rochelle’ is heartbreaking. It offers a tender, loving yet blistering snapshot into caring for someone you love during their illness. The fine-honed imagery of fish and bones is particularly affecting – I struggle with poems that seem to bounce from image to unconnected image and this poem is all the more cutting for being so finely distilled. ‘I think of when you were fish-mouthed and not yet born’ made me catch my breath. Gill cleverly balances the past and the present and the thought of ‘bones’ is a chasm into the future. – Jane Burn, guest editor

La Rochelle

By the time we reach the toilet
you slump to the bowl.

You smell of peppermint
and sweat. I think of when

you were fish-mouthed
and not yet born

skin scented nothing,
how you strained

in my grandmother’s womb
against the tightness of her belly.

When I was little
we found a jellyfish.

You told me not to touch it
so I tried to brush its hair

and cried. You carried me
home on your aching back,

said it was fine
like you’re doing now

through morphined teeth.
On the toilet, you fish-mouth

through the pain.
I’m careful when I touch you

and help you up – your bones
grind against one another.

It’s such a long way back to your bed.

Anne Gill

Anne Gill is a founding member of the Second City Poets, a Birmingham based collective. Their collaborative work, Playground, was commissioned for the Verve Poetry Festival (2019), and later published with the Verve Poetry Press (2019). She is currently in Newcastle where she is completing her masters. Her pamphlet, Raft, was published with Bad Betty Press in 2019.

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