Olivia McCannon

March 27, 2016 McCannon Olivia



Open door, high cistern, wooden loo seat

Harvesters hanging, mangle in passageway

Long key in lock, block of wood dangling


Wall clock, drop-leaf table, pressure-cooker beans

Seersucker tablecloth, jug of Bisto, crumbs

Pink-yellow Battenburg, splashes of dark tea


Row of eggcups with faces, Coronation mugs

On hooks, fan heater, soap rack and nail brush

Crossword, Scrabble, notelets, china pugs


Wooden chest, scissors, four pairs in a pot, bottom-

hollowed chair, tapestry owls, knitted squares

Insulin, flashcards, smelling salts, football scores


Beatles mags, Yeats Selected, record player

Hole in rug, duffel coat, hairspray, Everly Brothers

Fishtail skirt, kohl, mortarboard, Old Bear


Marmite sarnies, greaseproof paper, rubber band

Trousers nipped in bicycle clips, whistling, waders

Model ships, bundle of love letters postmarked Iceland


Slow-worms in the compost, nettles tucked around the roast

Egg and chips, chocolate shaved off soldiers’ rations

Upright piano, sit-up-straight chairs, tall steep dark stairs


Canaries, cages, linseed and cuttlefish, burbling song

Beak scritch and wing flutter, briquetted newspaper

Shopfloor, shoebrushes, Engels, Our Father


Lord keep us safe this night secure from poking fingers

Black knees, curls in papers, legs in drawstring bloomers

Candle out, pillow, quilt, two feet by each ear.






You asked me what I would like of yours

Books, pictures, ornaments, jewellery, and

I couldn’t think of a thing, not one thing

As all of it was you and what I wanted was

For you to be always there among it all, but then

You were hurt. So I cast around in my mind and

Pictured, at the back of a kitchen cupboard

An old tin, a tray for making fairy cakes

The one with so many bakes stuck to it and

Turned to tar that the flower patterns meant

To mould the bases didn’t, anymore –

There, eclipsed, was your light cast over

My childhood, and the invisible corona:

Even as you worried it wouldn’t work

That the cakes wouldn’t come out right, I was

Watching the set of your eyes, the turn

Of your wrist on the wooden spoon.

Olivia McCannon was born on Merseyside, lived for nine years in France and is currently based in London. Exactly My Own Length (Carcanet/Oxford Poets, 2011) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize and won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. Her translations include Balzac’s Old Man Goriot (Penguin Classics, 2011).