Four Poems by Tessa Berring


New Cat


I’m going to fill
a hot water bottle

and stroke Fluffa
the new cat

My hands smell
of mud

My thighs smell
of fishmongers ice

even though I’m
warm and so dry



Do you understand?
(Are you warm too?)

Do you understand
being cold?


Can You See The Ash Tree?

Right now I see no ash tree

I see sugar, candles
dry hands, pussy cats

Do you want me all the same?
I will shift around and breathe deep

I know you know the moves
I know you know the moves

Wasn’t the sea brilliant on Saturday?

Yellow ripe banana
and a little brown stain

(there’s always a stain)

Once I was born mauve
mauve as an emergency

They pumped fresh air inside me
till I laughed and laughed and laughed!

Under an ash tree you can sweat buckets

You can lose your head and recall
nothing but the taste of insects

My watch, just now
is hot against my skin

I can’t imagine fingers
(as in another persons fingers)

I can’t imagine a tongue!

Blood sits in my thumbnails
like any old dirt

What would so-and-so wear to a party?
Warm cheeks, lipstick, sweet messy smiles


Hello Mummy, Be Funny

means stick your finger
on the end of your nose

and start squealing!

Ask if the pears
are from the fruit tree or the food bin
take the mints from the bag marked mints

The cat wants to come into the bedroom
The cat wants to jump out of the window

The cat is a black and white tiger
with weeping eyes

(Downstairs the meat turns blue)

Meaning moves
quick, quick, slow

I’ve been reading about machines
designed to make words accelerate
till you can’t read them

and all there is, is a hum


Everything Is Teeth

(I saw that through the window)

I was being a man
while another man gave me

a cup of lukewarm coffee

The devils’ heart for you, he said
(which was to do with malformed milk)

I don’t understand everything
but upstairs I wrote ‘mermaid’

on a crumpled paper napkin

Later I thought better of it
and wrote ‘owl’ in French

Sometimes that is ‘hibou’
Other times, ‘chouette’


About the Author:

Tessa Berring is a writer and artist based in Scotland. Her first collection, Bitten Hair was published with Blue Diode Press in 2019. Other work can be found via Dancing Girl Press, Adjacent Pineapple, Datebleedzine, Blackbox Manifold and Zarf Poetry.

Image: Jan Miel, Study of a Sleeping Cat, c. 1650 (detail)

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