You can find a selection of Caroline’s poetry below. Her new Forward Prize winning collection ‘The Air Year’ is available to order now


In the dry light of morning, I return to the well.
You think you know the outcome of this story.


Sunshine is a naked, roaming thing like hurt.
A well is a chance embedded in the ground.


The well was dry yesterday and the day before.
You think you know the lot about sunshine –


an early bird knows sod all about perseverance.
Good people, you lay down your curling souls


on the dust and surrender. I swing my bucket.
If the well is dry today I will come back tomorrow.


Caroline Bird
(from ‘The Hat-Stand Union’)


A poem about hysteria


You could order them from China over the Internet.
The website showed a grainy picture of Vivienne Lee
in Streetcar Named Desire.
It was two vials for twenty euros
and they were packaged like AA batteries.


They first became popular on the young German art scene –
thin boys would tap a few drops into their eyes then
paint their girlfriends legs akimbo and faces cramped
with wisdom, in the style of the Weimar Republic. It was
sexy. They weren’t like artificial Hollywood tears,
they had a sticky, salty texture
and a staggered release system. One minute,
you’re sitting at the dinner table eating a perfectly nice steak
then you’re crying until you’re sick in a plant-pot.


My partner sadly became addicted to Mystery Tears.
A thousand pounds went in a week
and everything I did provoked despair.
She loved the trickling sensation.
‘It’s so romantic,’ she said, ‘and yet I feel nothing.’
She started labelling her stash with names like
For Another and Things I Dare Not Tell.
She alternated vials, sometimes
cried all night.


She had bottles sent by special delivery marked  
Not Enough. A dealer sold her stuff cut with
Fairy Liquid, street-name: River of Sorrow.
Our flat shook and dampened. I never  
touched it. Each day she woke up  


calmer and calmer.


Caroline Bird,
(from The Hat-Stand Union.)


Long before we tie the knot, Divorce moves in.
He sits on the naughty step, patting his knees.


Crowned in towel, I step out the shower
and he’s there, handing me a raffle ticket.


He plays kick-about with the neighbourhood kids,
chalks crosses on their doors and buys them Big Macs


Socking his fist into the bowl of his hat,
he’d kicked the gate wide, that sunny day in Leeds.


My mum was incredulous, “she’s only ten,
she can’t possibly have made contact with you.”


He clocked my young face and handed me his card.
‘Call me when you fall in love, I’m here to help.’


Perhaps he smelt something in my pheromones,
a cynicism rising from my milk-teeth.


With gum, he stuck notes on Valentine’s flowers:   
tiny life-letters in factual grey ink.


The future cut two keys for a new couple.
On my twenty-first, Divorce took the spare room.  


He loves to breathe down the spout of the kettle,
make our morning coffee taste mature and sad.


He waits by the car, slowly tapping Tic-Tacs
down his throat. We’ve thought about stabbing him,


but he’s such a talented calligrapher:
our wedding invitations look posh as pearl.


He bought us this novelty fridge-magnet set,  
a naked doll with stick-on wedding dresses.


Divorce and I sometimes sit in the kitchen,  
chucking odd magnetic outfits at the fridge.


He does the cooking, guarding over the soup,
dipping his ladle like a spectral butler.


He picks me daisies, makes me mix-tapes, whispers
‘call me D,’ next thing he’ll be lifting the veil.


After the honeymoon, we’ll do up the loft,
give Divorce his own studio apartment.


We must keep him sweet, my fiancé agrees,
look him in the eye, subtly hide matches,


remember we’ve an arsonist in the house.
The neighbours think we’re crazy, pampering him


like a treasured child, warming his freezing feet,
but we sing Divorce to sleep with long love songs.


Caroline Bird
(from ‘Watering Can.’)


If I was a virgin I could streak across your garden,
drape myself across your armchair like a portrait of a lady
who is unabashed and simple as a cherry in a bowl
and only dreams of ponies and weekends by the seaside,
sipping unchartered water from a baby-blue decanter,
sighing with her slender throat and saving herself.


If I was a virgin I could wear white in winter,
read your dirty magazines with a shy and puzzled look,
like I didn’t know a crotch from a coffee-table, darling
I could scream blue bloody murder
when you caught me in the shower,
snatch a towel around my outraged breast,
my eyes awash with droplet tears,
I wouldn’t hold your hand in public, if I was a virgin,
I would never spill spaghetti on my jeans.
My voice would be as gentle as an angel blowing bubbles,
I would be terrified by frisbees and sports of any kind,
I would always ride my bicycle side-saddle.


If I was a virgin I’d look great in a bikini.
I’d feed you grapes and rye bread
and my hands would smell of soap.
You would hold me in your arms like a precious piece of crockery,
I would sob into your jacket, you would gasp inside your pants.


If I was a virgin, you wouldn’t look at other girls,
you would spring-clean your apartment
before you asked me round for supper,
give me your bed, spend the night on the sofa,
dreaming of the gentle way I breathed inside my bra,
my nightgown would remind you of fragrant summer orchards,
and nobody would know my mouth tastes of peaches
and I thrash in my sleep like a baboon.


Caroline Bird
(from ‘Trouble Came To The Turnip’.)


I will be sober on my wedding day,
my eggs uncracked inside my creel,
my tongue sleeping in her tray.


I will lift my breast to pay
babies with their liquid meal,
I will be sober on my wedding day.


With my hands, I’ll part the hay,
nest inside the golden reel,
my tongue sleeping in her tray.


I’ll dance with cows and cloying-grey,
spin my grassy roulette wheel,
I will be sober on my wedding day.


I’ll crash to muddy knees and pray,
twist the sheets in tortured zeal,
my tongue sleeping in her tray.


Church-bells shudder on the bay,
fingered winds impel the deal:
I will be sober on my wedding day,
my tongue sleeping in her tray.


Caroline Bird
(from ‘Watering Can.’)


When you can pick up your mother in thickset hands,
roll her over and tenderly remove her wings.


When you can rip off your father’s moustache
with a twitch of finger and thumb,


telling him, ‘It’ll never do good with the ladies,
not any more.’


When you can place them on your shelf,
like miniature models, knowing that every night


they search the bedroom,
looking for lovers and empty wine bottles,


but melt into the carpet when you open your eyes.
When you can arrange your grandparents in tiny velvet chairs


and gently put them in the embers of the fire,
soothing them through cooing lips


that you’re ‘Well fed and educated,’ so there’s no need to worry.
When you can put your relatives in separate boxes


to make sure they don’t breed or cut each other’s hair
while you’re out of the house.


When you can lift them, light as a feather, kiss them
and tuck them in matchbox beds,


making sure your family are locked in innocent slumber,
before leaving to go clubbing every night.


When you can do all this, then you have to face the guilt
when finally, after too many years, you creep back in


to find each wide awake and crying
that they hadn’t known where you were.


Caroline Bird
(from ‘Looking Through Letterboxes.’)

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