Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Bin Bag of Banishment


It’s looking rather full.


I’ve crammed in Sunday teatime television,

doctors’ receptionists who treat patients like The Enemy,

owners of yappy dogs no bigger than a gerbil,

the greatest hits of Simon and Garfunkel,

soggy bits of celery in soup,

anyone who believes armed conflict is a sane way of solving a dispute,

sentences that start, ‘With all due respect…’,



Margaret Thatcher’s voice,

people who draw quote marks in the air,

and poetry you need a bloody PhD to understand.


I’m going to shove it in the boot

of a clapped-out Ford Cortina

and drive at twenty miles an hour

down the middle of the road

to the scrap yard.

I’m going to crush it in the crusher

over and over

until it’s the size of a walnut.

I’m going to toss it into the ashtray

on the way home.


Under cover of darkness

I’m going to creep into my neighbour’s garden

and feed the scrunched-up morsel

to his goat.


And in due course

the contents of the bag

will become


what they’ve always been


And then


I’m going to smile.


(c) Helen Lewis 2006


I’m sitting on a single bed

with pounding heart and aching head.

My memory’s stuck – it won’t rewind.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The décor’s apple-green and chrome.

Wherever I am, it isn’t home.

They say I’m free but I feel confined.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The pills they make me take are brown.

The nurses have to hold me down,

but first they close the roller blind.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The girl next door to me is nuts –

her arms a mess of razor cuts.

I don’t belong here, with her kind.

I haven’t lost my mind.


And all the other women here

are tainted with the smell of fear

and search for things they cannot find.

I haven’t lost my mind.


Respect’s a quality they lack.

They whisper things behind my back.

The words they say are so unkind.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The doctor says when he is through

I’ll see the world like others do –

I’m not sure I’m that way inclined.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The things he says are just not right –

that black’s not black and white’s not white,

and every cloud is silver-lined.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The doctor smiles but I do not.

He wants to know what I forgot.

He makes my tangled thoughts unwind.

I haven’t lost my mind.


The doctor says I’m almost there;

I’ll start to heal if I can bear

to drop the mask I hide behind.

I haven’t lost my mind.


Oh God, did I do something wrong?

I can’t forget for nine months long

my blood and hers were intertwined.

I haven’t lost my mind.


For eighteen hours on the trot

she cried and cried and wouldn’t stop.

A swirling redness made me blind.

Perhaps I’ve lost my mind.


For hers was such a little life

it only took a pocket knife

to cut away the ties that bind.

I think I’ve lost my mind.


(c) Helen Lewis 2006


A visit to the Sistine Chapel, 1511

You’ll find my master on the scaffold there:

Flat on his back, with paint streaks in his hair.

This labour’s how he earns his daily bread;

A marriage of convenience. He’s been wed

For three long winters to this shrewish wife,

Who’s had ten thousand hours of his life.

But every dusk, as night crowds out the day,

And steals all colour, leaving dregs of grey,

He keeps a moonlit tryst with mistress stone,

The only passion that he’s ever known,

Whose skin is smooth and white, whose touch is cold.

Inspired by ageless beauty, he grows old.


(C) Helen Lewis 2009

The first leaf of autumn


Phaedra the wood nymph sings and dances, showering the glade with rose petals. She is naked apart from a chain of daisies around her head. As she sways, her long hair swings. Suddenly she stops.

‘Who’s there?’ she calls. ‘Show yourself!’

A young man emerges from a bush. He has sun gold hair and sky blue eyes, and his garments are willow green.

‘I am Summer,’ he says, ‘deity of the season. I wander the earth at this time of year, inspecting my handiwork.’

‘I am not your handiwork,’ says Phaedra. ‘You have no right to inspect me.’



Dear Diary,

You’ll never guess what happened today! I was singing and dancing in the nude like I always do, and this bloke popped up out of a bush and told me he was a god. A god!!!! I was totally gobsmacked — you don’t get to meet gods very often. Actually, I did meet one once, but he was old and ugly and full of himself, so he doesn’t count. And this one was abso-bloody-lutely gorgeous! He tried to kiss me and I didn’t stop him. I think I’m in lurve!





Subject: Our wayward brother


It has come to my attention that Summer has declared his love for the wood nymph Phaedra.

It is not fitting for a deity to become romantically involved with a semi-mortal.

We need to take action.


Vernal Deity




Subject: Re: Our wayward brother

I reckon wood nymphs are fair game. I tried to cop off with Phaedra myself once, and she gave me the cold shoulder. If I can’t have her, then I don’t see why anyone else should.

I agree that we’ve got to do something.






Subject: Re: Our wayward brother

Hey guys,

I don’t think there’s anything we can do right now. It’s Summer’s time, you know? But when the first leaf of autumn falls, the mystical power thingy transfers to me, and I’ll do something rad.


Your mellow brother,

Autumn (AKA Fall)




Summer is drawing

to a close. It rains all night

and in the morning


the lovers embrace

beneath a maple tree and

share tearful goodbyes.


‘I’ll come back next year,’

says Summer. ‘You better had,’

Phaedra whispers back.


As they pull apart

a leaf spins down towards the

puddle at their feet.


And then it happens.

Phaedra turns to stone right where

she’s standing; eyes wide,


fingers to lips, mouth

open in surprise. She won’t

dance and sing again


until Summer sneaks

back into the woods and the

roses bloom once more.


(C) Helen Lewis 2011

A sea change at the fish ‘n’ chip shop

 After ‘The only son at the fish ‘n’ chip shop’ by Geoff Hattersley


Before I break the news to mother

I down a couple of pints.

“Well, Gerald,” she says,

“It’s about bloody time.”


Maureen knows how to talk to the customers.

She wears high heels and red nails.

She cuts the size labels

from her regulation tabards.


Maureen’s been to Spain and Old Trafford.

While I’m carving the kebab meat,

she talks about her holiday in Turkey.

I say I don’t think I should like the heat.


Maureen scribbles poems on chip paper;

they’re not very good – they don’t even rhyme.

I tell her about my novel and she asks to read it.

I say I’ll show her when it’s finished.


She asks me to marry her

one Saturday after closing time.

We’re alone in the back room,

counting the takings.


The strip light flickers.

The fly killer buzzes

blue lightning.

I say yes.


I’m sick of the smell of chip fat

under my shirt collar,

and the oil-slick air

above the fryers.


Maureen says chip fat’s liquid gold.

“There are going to be

some changes around here

when I’m in charge,” she says.


(C) Helen Lewis 2006

%d bloggers like this: