Heidi Williamson (British Working Class Poetry)

Heidi Williamson grew up in rural Norfolk. Her father was a printer and she grew up on a council estate in a single parent family. She is currently interested in representations of women who leave the family home. She has been Poet-in-Residence at the John Jarrold Printing Museum, London Science Museum’s Dana Centre, and RLF Fellow at the University of East Anglia. www.heidiwilliamsonpoet.com



The lion tamer’s wife in the rain


‘We make such a pitiful

sight that the circus-master

is in tears’

Tua Forsstroöm

transl. David McDuff


Birds won’t fly in the rain,

I think, watching the robin settle

behind the porch oleander. 


That it has come to this:

the child asks me a question

and I distractedly shush her.


My mother told me that when

a bird sings in the rain

the storm is about to end.


The robin stays silent. 

Its red breast sheds breath after breath.

The girl watches the carefree rain.


I’m watching nothing really.

That’s what our life has become.

A bird by a stem in the rain.



The lion tamer’s wife meets a different class of man


This one has polished brogues

and a gilet. He’s not prone to top hats

and when he bathes no scars surface.


After his regular office hours,

we meet in wine bars for early

evening drinks. His skin is as shiny


as his tie. Our wine glasses clink

in agreement but when the dull

roar of conversation stalls,


I scan the room as if it were

an audience. The lights

remain dim and unmoving.


When I rise to visit the gleaming

bathrooms, clumps of sawdust

trail from my shoes.



Truth be told, the lion tamer


is a mild man, fond of all creatures.

He respects the traditions of his art

and only wishes to demonstrate

the leonine glory of his companions.


The fact is, he grew up among felines.

He taught himself to care for them

in their own ways. Later, when they each

deserted him, he was distraught.


The lion tamer’s favourite

lioness knows all this

when she leaves him

for another lion tamer. 

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