Poetry by Jo Bratten




In these times we tighten, fasten locks 

like lips, stockpile pills, believe 


our own haptic power to summon 

the fever-gods, draw blood to rub 


across the lintel, into apotropaic 

scratches cut into doors and walls.


You touch me like a mezuzah, hang me 

by your heart, an omamori, a scapular, 


a locketed caul; hold me on your lips 

a cicada of jade, in your pocket like 


a hare’s foot, a whelk’s shell; I circle 

you like hag stones, word you a breverl:


the skies are quieter, clean; a blackbird 

pauses, tilts her head, builds a nest.


Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 310


We’re all maids in a tower now (I’ll be

Petrosinella – like Rapunzel but


empowered, with a handful of magic

acorns), locked inside four walls, unwashing


our hair, unshaving our armpits and legs,

loosening the casement once a day 


to throw bits of old bread to bemused birds, 

baking things we don’t intend to share. 


Men lurk meaningfully outside, sighing

for a woman’s touch; they fret their guitars,


scan their plague poems below our windows,

explain how the two-metre rule doesn’t mean


we’re not allowed to talk. Please, they beg.

Inside we sharpen scissors, cut our hair.


This poem was written in response to our Stories in the Time of Covid19 project.


Jo Bratten is a writer and teacher living in London. Originally from the USA, she grew up off-grid on a farm in eastern Ohio before completing a PhD on the modern novel at the University of St Andrews. Her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines and online journals, including Ambit, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Acumen and Ink Sweat & Tears.
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