Claire Potter

Claire Potter ’s most recent poetry publications have appeared in The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry (edited by John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan), Best Australian Poems 2016 (ed. Sarah Holland-Batt), Poetry Chicago (ed. Robert Adamson), and Poetry Review Ireland. She was shortlisted for a 2017 Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize UK and she has published three poetry collections, In Front of a Comma (Poets Union 2006), N’ombre (Vagabond 2007) and Swallow (Five Islands 2010). She lives in London.


The Copper Beech

I lie you down, spread your branches wide as wings across the grass
Your leaves flatten like cracked shells, letting the sea out of my ears

Breath has gone out of you

You are at the edge of becoming an object
belonging to the wind

From a distance there is no way of telling your dark fallen leaves
from copper-black feathers––or your red-tongued branches
from a split open nest

I walk amongst purple shadows, I sit within the mess
of leaves

But in writing this I am not unique, nor
are these feelings. This experience cannot be said
to belong to any obstinate sense of me

There are many more who weep when birds and trees are falling, when

the mauve of dusk slowly tapers and pre-emptively disappears
When the bone-heavy moon

carves an ending and turns its back on the sea
     and leaves rattle like pewter shells

returning to the beach.


Three Steps Outside the TAB

Pale steps, concrete and absolute
solid and lengthwise between two pillars and a portico
I am waiting on the blue-grey steps
divided into three parts
The first step is physical such that in this heat
my skirt bandages against my thighs
I’ve sat here all afternoon
in this passage of tobacco, jasmine and beer
and I’ve sung, resting my head on my knees
looping prayer with radio
waiting for Grandpa to swing open the doors
scoop my hand into his
and ruminate about the horses
he’s decided not to back
Shiny cars shuffle
across a weft of bitumen and white lines
the rubber tyres wheeze with kids
springing from car doors wanting ice-cream, sherbet
lemonade through a straw
I watch the beetle-tops glistening in the sun––
inside they’re cooking and the steering wheels warp like liquorice
as though I’m Gretel and everything before me
on the steps of this oven, is secretly made for eating
I’m vigilant, too, about Grandpa’s Valiant parked illegally up the kerb
Cabbage-white body, chrome bumper, single front seat, no seatbelts
in the back, two round side mirrors, black
dashboard, chipped, plastic, and a whickering gearbox
Grandpa wears a white shirt––sleeves rolled to the elbows
elbows dry and flaking. Trousers wide
and tall, hoisted with a thin belt
He agrees with everything I say
and these afternoons at the TAB we foist off as dog-walks
Pete in sagging herringbone and rosaceous cheeks
taps my head and comes and goes
through the double glass-doors carrying
a blue plastic shopping bag full of errands and chores
as if it were against his better judgement to be there
I recognise his slippers, Grandpa
wears the same ones, seaweed-brown tartan, thin brown sole
noiseless as he pads across the shopping centre
as if it were his kitchen
and the TAB his blue lagoon
Sunlight passes through an eye of mirror and I squint at it
and begin crying without reason until Grandpa comes out
wipes my eyes with a handkerchief and says he’ll be done soon

The second and third steps are as cold as a whale might be
and beneath my sandals, they’re dimpled with mica and pore
Had I a pocket knife I could chip into them
engrave a heart cordoned with forget-me-nots
or tally-marked with time etched into tiny bales of grey
But I’ll close my eyes against the stone
imagine the rib of steps belongs inside Jonah’s whale
and I’m a barnacle growing there, perchance
or a mermaid in disguise, battering
the hull of this gambling seadog’s skip
with the weight of a huge emerald tail––
but look, he’s smoking at the door with Pete
his spare hand’s outstretched, he wants to go
he’s ready––he heels out his cigarette into a twist of ash
and off the steps, through waves of smoke-blue air
I skip over my tail