What would you do if I died right now, here, you asked.
Your hand still resting on my thigh. Your eyes focused on the ceiling –
on the splash of curry sauce to the left of the light which doesn’t work.

We could have been in a field.
A wooden spoon dug into my back.
I thought it funny.
Let’s not talk of death where food is prepared, I said.

You turned away, stood up and opened the fridge.
The light shone past you. An outline of you

your feet tapping on the floor. Your mother would be home soon.
To her yellow and white check tea towels and her hand-painted bread bin

and her naked daughter standing like Jesus
in front of the refrigerator. I grabbed your foot.
Come on, your nipples’ll freeze and you’ll be cryogenically frozen.
There was a laugh somewhere, under your hair, as you toppled backwards
onto the floor and cupped my face.
So if I died, right here, now, you said – you’d freeze me?
Your eyes were grey, round. You were swimming
and I didn’t know what you wanted me to do.

I’d keep you, I said. I’d keep you right here.
Dead? You grinned. Where food is prepared?
Well then I’d eat you, I said, and you stared so deep I drowned
in a kitchen that wasn’t there.

I’d swallow down all the evidence of you.

I grabbed your hand.
We heard a key turn in a front door, somewhere by the shore.
I’d like that, you said, and then kissed me.

From The Girl Aquarium (Bloodaxe Books, £9.95)

 

Jen Campbell is a bestselling author and award-winning poet. Her most recent books include the short story collection The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, and a series of children’s picture books about a book-loving dragon called Franklin. She won the Jane Martin Poetry Prize in 2013, received an Eric Gregory Award in 2016, is Vlogger in Residence for the Poetry Book Society, and was a judge of the Forward Prize in 2018. She talks about books, fairy tales and disfigurement at youtube.com/jenvcampbell. Her poetry pamphlet The Hungry Ghost Festival was published by The Rialto in 2012, and her first book-length collection, The Girl Aquarium, is out now from Bloodaxe Books. She lives in London.
Read more
jen-campbell.co.uk
@jenvcampbell

Author portrait © Nuraan Ackers

Also by Jen Campbell
Extract: A bookshop like no other
Short story: Bright white hearts

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