Clare Shaw’s third collection of poems ripples out from the 2015 floods that engulfed huge areas of Britain, including her then home town of Todmorden. Flood offers an eyewitness account of those events, finely interwoven with the breakdown of a relationship and wider themes of loss, destruction, unravelling and recovery.

 

Weather warning

The weather’s all wrong
and nothing can right it. Wherever I am,
there’s a sound in the background
like threat. The wind knows
all of my secrets.
It hates that it cannot speak.

All night, it rages. The garden is battered,
the small path is lost to mud.
Slates have slipped. There’s damp in the bricks
and the floors are dirty.
No matter how high the heating,
I cannot get warm.

When I sleep, I dream in yellow;
sun pouring down me
like rain. Then I’m naked
and everything I touch is hot.
Sky glares; flowers are open.
Bushes are loaded with fruit. I’m a shit.

Morning. You’re on the bed’s far side.
The room smells of something hidden.
The river is angry with rain.
Roads are blocked and the lines are down.
I stretch out my arm
but can’t reach you. I cannot reach you at all.

 

Major structures destroyed; terrain significantly altered

The valley has shifted.
That landscape you took for granted ­–
whatever it meant

has changed.
Rivers have altered their courses;
centuries-old bridges have failed.

No number of sandbags
could stop this.
You will not walk here again.

Your boots and your compass
were useless.
She has gone. She has left you

mapless.
Now, you must find your own way
in the darkness.

Find your own way
by the stars.

 

Clare_Shaw_290Clare Shaw was born in Burnley in 1972. She is a Royal Literary Fellow, and a regular tutor for the Writing Project, the Poetry School, the Wordsworth Trust and the Arvon Foundation. She also works as a mental health trainer and consultant and has taught and published widely in the field. She lives in Hebden Bridge with her daughter and their two pet rats, and enjoys rock climbing and wild swimming. Her previous collections are Straight Ahead (2006) and Head On (2012). Flood is published by Bloodaxe Books, priced £9.95.
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