Abigail Ottley

Ottley (formerly Wyatt) writes poetry – and some short fiction – from her home in Penzance in Cornwall. Since 2009, her work has appeared in more than 150 journals, magazines and anthologies including The Blue Nib, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Atrium Poetry and Words With Jam. She was also one of the poets featured in Wave Hub: new poetry from Cornwall (2014) edited by Dr Alan M Kent and published by Francis Boutle. In 2019, 12 of her poems were translated into Romanian for Pro Saeculum and Banchetul. For this, much gratitude to translator and bilingual poet, Mariana Gardner. In the same year, Abigail’s poem ‘Bull Male, Sleeping’ was chosen for ‘Poems on the Move’ at the Guernsey Literary Festival. (formerly Wyatt) writes poetry – and some short fiction – from her home in Penzance in Cornwall. Since 2009, her work has appeared in more than 150 journals, magazines and anthologies including The Blue Nib, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Atrium Poetry and Words With Jam. She was also one of the poets featured in Wave Hub: new poetry from Cornwall (2014) edited by Dr Alan M Kent and published by Francis Boutle. In 2019, 12 of her poems were translated into Romanian for Pro Saeculum and Banchetul. For this, much gratitude to translator and bilingual poet, Mariana Gardner. In the same year, Abigail’s poem ‘Bull Male, Sleeping’ was chosen for ‘Poems on the Move’ at the Guernsey Literary Festival.

THE PUGILIST

You go down hard like a frozen side of beef or 
a hundredweight sack of potatoes.  
Fall like a man might fall through a trapdoor. 
Like a stone through the dark.
You go down mid-sentence an hour after lunch
half in, half out of the kitchen.
Your knees buckle, your legs give way.
There’s no sound but a grunt of mild surprise.
Sprawling and winded, it’s clear as day
there’s no way we can lift you. 
Two frightened women not young or strong,
one six weeks after surgery
unable to bathe or dress herself 
still mourning the loss of a breast.
We do our best. But we know we are beaten.
You know it too and you are angry.
You strain your arms to heave yourself up
back into the world, into the light.
A boxer in your day you have dwindled to this:
an old man’s rage wrapped in a blanket. 
Now two paramedics rehearse their banter.
Haul your bulk upright on three.
As they load you up the big engine purrs and
they smile. You’ll be right as rain in no time.
When the call comes later you have slipped away.
But we know you went down hard. 

SOME BOY

I’m a pint-sized hustler, a cot blanket tussler
a butterfly-breather, a misty-eyed dreamer
a sad thought eraser, a star-gazey chaser
a snoozer, a bruiser, a little boy bluer
a shot from a bow that couldn’t be truer.

Also a coo-er, a snuffler, a poo-er
a nappy polluter who couldn’t be cuter
a sleepy-eyed blinker, a bit of a stinker
a sneezer, a spewer, a howler, a mewler
a maker of mischief, a hullabaloo-er.

A sprawler, a bawler, a soon-to-be crawler
a catcher of sunbeams, a plotter of schemes.
A keeper awaker, a trainee heart-breaker
a giver and taker, a stealer of scenes.
 
An energy zapper, a dad-dad-dad-dad-er
a painter of pictures, a singer of songs.
A red woolly hatter, a scorer, a scrapper
a mapper of futures, a righter of wrongs.

A cute button-noser, a drifter and dozer
a guzzler, a nuzzler, a curver of balls.
A warm milk-sipper, a firm finger-gripper
a rug-rat, a nipper, a worker with tools.

A kisser, a hugger, Mum’s shy apron-tugger
a snug as a bug in a rugger.
A dispenser of smiles that will pull you in-deeper
the bees-wax, the proper McCoy.
I’m a happiness spreader, a world on its head-er
a changer of games. I’m some boy. 

 I SEE YOU IN THE LIBRARY WHERE I USED TO LIKE TO BE

You surely must be dead by now/Or dying/I won’t say I wish it/when I think of you which is more and more often/most likely this is me growing older/I try to see you as a hollow/not a shell exactly/much too pretty for my purposes/more like a rusty tin can/something that never was beautiful/which might once have been of some passing practical use/I see you as something ruinous now/ruinous and crumbling/tumbledown like a ramshackle building/or something disturbing/even monstrous/something profoundly at odds with itself/unsteady on its feet/ 

	I see you I suppose as a wreck of yourself/ you never did look healthy/that sallow skin/oily and pitted/the shine on your ill-fitting jacket/its cheap black fabric already turning green/flecks of dandruff on your shoulders like stars /earth under your fingernails/and the skin of  your hands still soft and pudgy/soft/soft like a  girl’s/not roughened by work like my dad’s big hands/scrubbed clean every evening for tea/and your scuffed shoes down at heel/your hair just an inch too long/your brown eyes/your dull eyes/sad like a dog’s/

	I see you in the library where I used to like to be/your back turned to the sky/in my memory the sky is always blue/there is sunlight/ streaming through the window/you are slumped like a scarecrow in a low chair with arms/reading/pretending to read/you are young in this picture/or something like/a shark lazily cruising/flat-eyed/not especially hungry/cruising through the four o’clock heat/circling/circling/one eye on the clock/circling slowly/you smile and smile/your jaws open like clockwork/your teeth up close are not white.

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