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Lydia Unsworth

Lydia Unsworth is the author of two collections of poetry: Certain Manoeuvres (Knives Forks & Spoons, 2018) and Nostalgia for Bodies (Winner, 2018 Erbacce Poetry Prize), and two chapbooks: My Body in a Country (Ghost City Press, 2019) and I Have Not Led a Serious Life (forthcoming, above / ground press, 2019). Recent work can be found in Ambit, para.text, Tears in the Fence, Banshee, Litro and others. Manchester / Amsterdam. Twitter@lydiowanie

Longlisted for the Women Poets’ Prize 2018.

On the editorial team at Structo Magazine.


Outer Play /

You roll out the map to insulate your home. Stapling cloth to the wall is the only way if your heart doesn’t want to give in. You staple the end of your sleeve to the corner of a reappropriated patch of curtain, forgetting the day-to-day demands of your arm therein. You roll your body inside out, trying to escape the reassurance of bifurcation, rustling newspapers behind card behind card behind thick old coats once stuffed with the straw we also used to sleep in. You’re inside-out now, your arm interlocked with a finite but uncertain number of other limbs, bodies tipping, loop-the-looping, hands in hands in nameless patches of housewear. The goal is to become a slim ring, ironed out, blowing in the redirected wind. The goal is to shrink a bedroom back to the size of the cupboards that render unnecessary the separate bedrooms we alonely used to dream in. Built into the living room, as then as now, closed off during the day. If one day someone asks about me, tell them I’m finally learning to drive. Tell them that up on the moor it isn’t even cold. Tell them there’s a farm boy in the rear-view mirror holding his cows to account, trying notto let the docile multiply. Tell them to send more clothes.


Quiet Ambition and Strengthen Spine /

Up to no good, the sky is red tonight with no rewards. If nothing is done, all is gone well, they cry, casually flinging out the wild roses, stems cut at aggressive angles, undesired vases slicing the fat, loose air. I want to want nothing, to stop stealing treasure from my own safety-deposit boxes like a coin stealthed between two closed hands. Take me to a field of weeds so that I, too, can untether. Wean me on your dominant pronouns so that I, too, only see myself as shades of Smashbox or CoverGirl. Nude as the cream foundation into which I was born. Cracking up like Golconda on a wall. Tracing one warm line through a land so dark, melting a little fire into the chamber pot of what we expected, what was expected of us: that we go on being beautiful and living small.


Untangle /

With one hand in your mouth /and your finger in your eye / you soften the glare of the spilled cocktails on the boulevard tiles / You soften the words lining your tongue before flappingthem out on the cool post-puddles

Cracking up: oil painting in years of light. This is not the average time it takes a person of my age to get their body off the floor. My feet can hold me. My arms can hold. Standing on the edge of a diving board. Potential energy loaded up inside like I want to be your shelter and keep you safe―

Chlorine wharfs between us. The unplanned patterns of displacement meets design.



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