Clair Chilvers

Clair Chilvers was a cancer scientist, and latterly worked for the UK National Health Service. She divides her time between writing and volunteering for the charity Mental Health Research UK that she co-founded. She lives in Gloucestershire, UK.
She has had poems published in online and print magazines including Agenda, Allegro, Amaryllis, Artemis, Atrium, the Ekphrastic Review, Impspired, Ink Sweat and Tears, Live Encounters. Poetry Atlas, Reach Poetry, Sarasvati and Snakeskin. She won second prize in the Poetry Kit Ekphrastic Competition 2020 and her poems have been longlisted or commended in the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize 2020, and Poetry Kit Competition 2020. Her first collection Out of the Darkness (Frosted Fire) was published in 2021 and her second Island (Impspired Press) in 2022.  twitter @cedc13

Lady Chatterley by Torchlight

Lady Chatterley by torchlight
in the dormitory    of the school for young ladies

the bicyclist in a black army helmet
turns the wrong way   into a one-way street

toboggan through the woods
by moonlight to George Harrison   blaring

a masked audience watches
The Return of Ulysses

the boat sinks beneath her
in the estuary	 on a Spring tide

he sits   eyes lowered
on the pavement    outside the supermarket 

abandoned hacienda in the lazy afternoon
the lash of the horsewhip    across her thighs

child screams as his mother 
hands him to a soldier

roar of the Victoria Falls
crocodiles lie in wait on the Zambezi 

they take off their striped pyjamas
to enter the gas chamber

skinny dipping in the lake 
at midnight   high on pot

rope bridge across the canyon 
sways in the deluge of tropical rain

				mirrors don’t tell lies

Trick or Treat

In the twilight the children throng down the street
past the clapboard houses with their neat lawns
the doors ajar but unlit.
Where are the neighbours 
ready to welcome them with treats?

Where are the parents 
following at a distance
ready to pick up the smallest ones
stop them straying into the road?
Tonight is different
they are drawn inexorably
towards the end of the road

where it peters out into scrubland
where the street lights cannot penetrate the mist
a mist that rises from the river in the cold still air.

Too Late

In his younger days
we walked on the downs with the dog
discussed life and buying shares 
Africa of course
where his cousin lived

He talked about Namibia
how he wanted to go back
how he had left it too late

So I went instead of him
because I missed him
wanted to please him
although it was too late

I didn’t go in his way
I camped and watched the sun set
a gin and tonic in my hand
a houseboy with hot water for my shower

I tracked desert elephants on foot
rode the dunes in a buggy 
saw the brightness of the milky way
zebra at the water hole 

I flew over the Skeleton Coast in a four-seater plane
saw the wrecks, imagined, just imagined 
drank cocktails in Swakopmund in a shady bar
that overlooked the sea
thought of all the questions
I should have asked him.

I did not say goodbye

When I was a baby
grandmother gave me a silver bell
while I was teething.
Mother kept it, mis-shapen as it was
by my baby teeth.
It sits on my dressing table
lovingly polished.
Grandmother came to die with us
when the cancer got too bad.
When she struggled to breathe
I used to wash and set her hair

the least I could for someone
who had taught me how to shop
sent me books wrapped in brown paper 
(she had no idea what they were about)
slept through Ben Hur at the cinema with me 
on a Sunday afternoon.

Then she went to hospital.
I did not visit her that day
to say goodbye.

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