Sarah Wallis

Catching the Startle
(in a Bronze Age Amber Cup)

A circle of ambered light glimmers secrets
of robin fire, holding past fly swarms, sunk
into time in the resinous light that was their ruin,
is warm with the memory of camp songs,
woodcutting and axe grinding, the close
of the backbreaking day, the cup contains
a multitude of burning secrets and stories;
of owners, worshippers and time bound
in the earth, of finders and seekers,
hoarders and keepers, old cupboards, dusted
shelves and museum soft light. The outside
so simple, plain, unadorned, something
overlooked, a mud cup you might pack up
for a long journey, but glance once inside,
oh the inside, see how it glitters and sparkles,
crackles and burns, like a fire opal, as magical
as a girl who is just setting out, questioning
received wisdom, beginning to wonder, to revel
at the wild, looking close at all that would beguile.


‘You may kiss your bride,’ the words rang out,
one girl incarnadine, one girl in cobalt and gold,
a peal of liberation and the guests clapped hands,

human music, all joy, all told in singing celebration

we joined hands too and smiled, a branch
of winter bravery, mistletoe slunk down, inclined
towards us and our fingers reached for the crown

two kisses breathed, one sanctified, one stolen

a pagan wedding made none the less of heaven.

Sing Upon a Starfish

He can grow a leg to stand en pointe
stiffly poised in a tutu of seaweed
training earnestly for fluidity, ballerina

reach and elegance, he who gave a leg
for freedom and scooched away with four,
in fine drains of sand, the eternal escapee

to rival the cat burglar in his craft, his guard up
and watchful of the company rockpool, counting
in and counting out, wishing on a red sail

hoist the jib, raise the colours, called out to sea
singing a quiet shanty of the old days when he
might have held naval duty, but peg legged

to shore for a time, confined himself to quiet pools
and like any old salt, he watches the tides
carry their ships, go moon their to and fro.


Sarah Wallis is a poet & playwright based in Leeds, UK, who has held residencies at Leeds Playhouse & Harrogate Theatre. 2018 publications include Pidgeonholes, Ellipsis, TrainLit, The A3 Review, Best New British & Irish Poets 2018 and The Island Review.

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