Five Poems from Speculum, by Hannah Copley



All through Tuesday the air smelled like one big orange slice

as if I could dip my fingers in the bedroom wall and bring them back coated in syrup.

I could eat all the oranges I wanted:
I was twenty-one and home for the summer and my dad was dead and love was oranges and the dark red post-box
rusting on the corner of the street

and I was pregnant by mistake.

It was like I was sick and oranges were the cure. Oranges and women’s magazines with names like Time for a Break and Chat that had spa day giveaways

next to headlines like Drugged and Raped
by Jack the Ripper’s Ghost! and Married to my Mother!

and My Amazing Sex…with a Wall!

that I could skim while I pressed my thumb nail
into another orange globe. I didn’t even need to look up

to make a hole big enough to suck out all the juice.

I could just put my mouth to the rind and keep going until there was nothing left inside.


Speculum [2]

Problem (2) is one of metaphor.
What is the appropriateness of fistula
to describe the hole in the archive
between the body of writing and the body of the patient?

Follow the sign for the tunnel between
the perfected gynaecological procedure
and the agony of the bondswoman whose vagina
is repeatedly penetrated by the curved end of the spoon.

This is a test. Perhaps only the description of the act itself,
as in, I am free enough to ball up my writing hand,
and tear my way to sympathy. Sonnet as hand-

crafted speculum tried and tried again;
as curved needle and gauze. Here I am placing fingers
in other people’s wounds; here I am wounding.

Speculum_Hannah Copley
Speculum: Hannah Copley. Published by Broken Sleep Books, (9781913624556).

Polish Aubade

for Stanislawa Leszczyńska 1896-1974.

To never wish
    through two

Polish winters
    for morning

is astounding.
    But then, why

would anyone
    when it arrives

in black boots.
    And why would

anyone when
    it only speaks

in numbers
    and why would

anyone when it
    brings the barrel

to drown them.
    There are so few

ways to be unruly
    when there are

no rules, but better
    frost lit black

than an iron-
    wrapped sun.

You say later
    that when

the second gong
    sounds and

the lights
    are put out

you are free
    to watch

each icicle glimmer
    you are free

to watch
    them shine

as a great crystal
    chandelier in an

extinguished house.

no a hundred
    branches growing

through the roof.
    One for every five

Patients to pull
    down and suck.

Better moonlight
    to lay kidney bowl

and scissors
    and your labour

out on the stove
    and work

And when
    they come free

in the darkness
    you can wrap

them up in paper
    rag     and hand

and place them
    down onto

the quiet bodies
    that bore them

small ice cold


Lost boys

“I can say that without fear of contraception”. Hylda Baker, Nearest and Dearest

At Brinsworth we do the cabaret
every other Wednesday. I’m wheeled in
for the ‘stimulation’ and the nurses say
give us one, Hylda, tell us another
even though they know. I’ve lost
them all. They’ve taken off and left me
like every other scoundrel in a pinstripe.
They were always so ready
to unzip, always so eager to leave.

Go on, the others heckle,
as if they could get up,
leering from their wheelchairs
like black-robed judges from the bench,
You know, Y’ know, and the silence chimes
like a pin drop through my empty head.

I’ve lost enough lovers to fill
The Queen’s Theatre twice through.
Some ran on foot, others sped away
in the Bentleys they were meant to chauffer,
their buffed hats left on the hallway table,
aftershave mingling with the others on the sheets.
Many simply couldn’t keep up.
One tried to take my Cha-Cha with him
when he ran. All those lost Cynthias. All gone.

And I lost a child once, and then I lost another
. I kept them safe in all the wrong places,
mislaid them like keys hidden in a fireplace.
They were stones in a champagne flute
, I was always bound to smash.
But they were there for a while,
hanging on, two faceless punters waiting
for the gag, and then it all slipped out
of me as easily as a giggle. Once is a mistake.
Twice is careless. By the end of it
you could hear a pin drop in my heart.


An Archive

Named Extreme Cure, or, On the Misnomer
of the Term Heroic Medicine. There is a rolling stack

dedicated to the wax each child dons to face the crowned light.
Cabinets for all the coaxed substances: colostrum, milk, placenta,

the shed lining of a womb. A microfilm that discusses how blood
can cover a table and a floor without the presence of a blade.

One file records how pushing is its own emetic – during,
and later, gingerly, amidst a fractured tailbone and each raw wound.

There is a city of death certificates, with new tower blocks
built every year, and a room with an ancient projector that loops a film

on how the women used to midwife and do still. Thirty hours
of work produces forty-eight centimetres of bawling result;

of vellum skin tucked into its proper place. See in this file
this spooling marvel of vernix and flesh.

27 April 2023