(c) Pete Zarria

This poem was commissioned especially for Litro’s October 2012 “Ghosts” issue.


Each night, the voice miles

down the line was soft. It’s Keith I want.

Keith from Black Diamond Garages.


The broken clock, the lean-shadowed settee

and me. Sorry, there’s no-one here.

The only Keith I knew could run the mile.


He’d sprint out of the playing fields

come back wearing a crown of frost,

once with a gang of horses chasing him.


When they hung up, I’d take my walk

behind the house to where the village’s excuse

for woods becomes the backs of terraces.


The ground cut deep with tyre marks and there,

facing the trees, a row of moonlit cars,

their bonnets wide, like mouths in song


and him ducking between them

in his evening-coloured overalls,

his thin Alastian rising from her blanket


as I stopped, not close, but close enough

to see the small black diamonds of their teeth

his oil-spill hair, the way he looked at me.

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985. Her collection Division Street is forthcoming from Chatto & Windus. She has published two pamphlets with Tall-lighthouse press: the shape of every box and a pint for the ghost—a series of poems inspired by ghost stories from around Sheffield. A five-time winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, she also received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. From 2010-2011, she was a poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere.

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