Jennifer Copley

Being Haunted

How annoying the dead are.
They like to be near us, breathe noisily
behind the curtains or crouch
under the table while we eat.
The dog watches all their to-ings and fro-ings.
He’s never seen so many bones.

How boastful the dead are.
They can recite all the countries on the globe,
quote extensively from Keats or Kipling,
know every fact about Mary Queen of Scots,
how she knelt to the axe,
her shivering dog under her skirts.

How spiteful the dead are.
Used to wintry weather, they relish it,
lash out at the postman blowing on his hands,
refuse to oil the gate.
They push the dog outside,
help themselves to his meat.

How scatterbrained the dead are.
We are forever picking up their stuff: spectacles,
the tea strainer, a small black paring knife.
The garden is littered with obituary notices.
Have a heart, we say, trying to rake the lawn
but only the dog reads our lips.

How nosy the dead are.
They peer round the wardrobe
as we lie in bed. They watch us sleep.
One of them goes through our In Box,
finds out what we’ve ordered for Christmas –
handcuffs, racy underwear, a chewy slipper.

How determined the dead are.
When the dog dies, they wait and wait
for us to follow suit and when we do,
give us ice-cold tea so we never warm up.
They show us photos of God so we know what he looks like
but they won’t tell us what to say.

Jennifer Copley lives in Barrow-in-Furness in her grandmother’s house, a place that has informed much of her poetry. She has published 5 collections of poetry including Ice (Smith/Doorstop), Unsafe Monuments (Arrowhead), Beans in Snow (Smokestack) and Living Daylights (Happenstance). Her work has appeared in The Rialto, The North, the Independent on Sunday, the Forward Prize Anthology and GCSE Poetry Unseen revision papers. Her latest collection is Mr Trickfeather published by Like This Press.

Jennifer Copley on being shortlisted for the 2013 Strokestown International: ‘I’d just like to say how delighted I am to be coming to Strokestown for the second time having been previously shortlisted in 2005. I had a wonderful time with such a feast of poetry on offer and the atmosphere was amazing. What struck me most was the way that everyone I met, from the waiter in the hotel to the landlady in our B&B, was interested in poetry. I wish this was the case in England!’

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