Deborah Alma (British Working Class Poetry)

Deborah Alma is a UK poet, editor and co-founder of the Poetry Pharmacy in Shropshire with her partner the poet James Sheard.

Her books include Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology#Me Too – rallying against sexual harassment- a women’s poetry anthologyThe National Trust Nature Poems and she co-edited, with Dr Katie Amiel, These Are the Hands-Poems from the Heart of the NHS and Poetry Projects to Make and Do is published by Nine Arches Press in November. Her first full collection Dirty Laundry is also published by Nine Arches Press. 



Keel, and Kink-shank, Points and Barbs

Fish hooks are normally attached

to some form of line or lure device

which connects the caught fish to the fisherman,

are designed to hold various types

of artificial, processed,

dead or live baits and so the past;


each memory pulled free bleeds in the uncoupling,

twists out so hard and so fast,

the sharp end that penetrates the mouth or flesh

that there is no respite from the pain,

not even a partial healing

no chance to scab,

or silver scales to lap over the red,

even though I don’t touch it, even though I wait.


Even so, much later, taking swimming lessons

and thinking myself safe,

a birthday card two months late-


hook shapes and names, varied as fish themselves

Sproat, Sneck, Limerick, Viking,

Swimming Nymph, Bend ;


the barb - the projection extending backwards from the point,

that secures the fish from unhooking;


-that he said he’d kept and kept and couldn’t send

to say I leave it to the magic of things,

but add my hope to the fate-


the eye - the end of the hook

connected to the fishing line or lure;

this long thin drawn out line of connection;


the hooks that dig deeper ,

not done fishing, not free of the bait.




Words in italics are taken from the entry for Fish hooks from Wikipedia






Black is the darkest colour,

the absence of light

the stick, thin

and fallen from the tree


starting is to be reckoned from,

and calm is not

showing or feeling strong emotions


material is the matter

from which a thing is made,

and maternal

is relating to a mother,


turncoat is one who deserts one cause

for another,

and stone is solid

and found in the ground;


and the hard seeds of mango, lychee, almonds.



Sometimes we need the cage


Mother parrots the things a Mother would say

this mother, in her green and red shalwar kameez says,

red Debbie is for a wife

and the mirrors in her clothes glitter,


sometimes I would cut myself on their edges

but now I help her

sit up in her bed with its sickly smell of hyacinths,

with the radiator hot and the fan heater singing its song

of pounds, shillings and pence.


And a motherless friend keeps her cats in a cage of love

and I wonder why it hurts me that the cats

cannot play in her beautiful garden

and I think of parrots in cages and mothers


and these are the things a mother would say

Wrap up warm, keep yourself safe

and I am fifty six and she doesn’t listen or know

that I am already wrapped up warm,

that in my own garden I am safe.


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