FISSURE by Val Whitlock


Val Whitlock reading Fissure




by Val Whitlock            


If you could slit the black, sucked-in skin,

you’d find her there, alone in a chasmic closet.

On such a winter’s day it’s full of all the leaves.

They are red and yellow and green and brown

and titian and bronze and ochre and peach

and amber and olive and ecru and fawn

and copper and gold and chocolate and beige

and sorrel and henna and hazel and rust

and auburn and ginger and russet and tan

and tawny and nut and umber and orange

and desolate blue




She’s a Matryoshka Prune-Shaped Tardis doll.

Who would risk it?

Turning the tops, pulling them off

one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by one by

The fear of finding never-ending


too hard to bear

Yours or mine?





It’s a fat-suit, Klomp-hard, and she’s crammed inside.                     

No give. No flex. No blooming space.

‘Let me out’, she screams in the bleak

‘Can’t you see me in here?’

But after all these years, she’s virtually invisible.






Matryoshka. ‘Little matron’. Mater. Mother.

A fertility doll.

And all the dolls are her children. Holding hands across kin and clans.

Keep holding tight, my love.






All those Matryoshka tops

Peeling peeling peeling peeling

But even so, who can ever really







When she steps outside the Prune-Shaped Tardis she’s like a colander.

And sticking a finger in a hole in a dyke won’t stop it caving in.  


Try to fill the titanic void. Plug up unpluggable holes.







Why don’t you get this?

feels like

why don’t you get this?



A prune is what’s left.

A handy thing to call upon. For the odd occasion when you need that quick remedy.

Though never a sugar plum fairy.

No comfit.

For her. The dried out. The withered.

The absence of flourish.






Prune. Never sugar coats it. Speaks its mind.

The yearn to expunge. And to cleanse.






But you can’t put new wine in old wineskins

And the ache to shed a skin. To step outside of it all and start over




and inside the Prune-Shaped Tardis, she wonders if she really exists



Slice the shrivelled Prune-Shaped Tardis skin

interior            spherical          photo-backdrop white

lightless    weightless    erstwhile      

and centre-slapped

a slopped scribble

a mooning human doodle

she’s not really this screwed up

she’s just drawn that way




Oval Matryoshka

Ova-less Prune-shaped Tardis





Where are you all, you figurine family?







There they all are. Lined up in a row.

And here we go again. Pulling off tops.

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Nothing inside

Two pills


Do you do it?

Or pin your hope on that last, tiny doll.






Lucky seven

or seven ages

end to end


this tender night

give me a child  

until she is seven


tiny and exquisitely chiselled

and each one that follows

is fashioned around it precisely


the same apart from its greater

size and outward embellishment

as if with the finest

of brush strokes

Sunday’s Child

on Wednesday







she is lumber, shelved

she gazes out from paint-glazed eyes  

gathers herself for the cursory feather dusting.                                 


‘I am all hollow,’

her dark insides yowl.

‘Knock would you                  

knock on my temple block

random rhythmic blurts  

make me reel                                                                                     


drill will you

drill fine deep holes

in my ocarina head

blow blow you winter gale

fill me, balloon me, smithereen me

make me feel

very very

breathe me some euphony                                                                           

from these cinders’






she puts on her uniform

ornate and vividly patterned,

glossy, jaunty,

people meet her in the crowd

jovial, smiling

and have no clue






Once it was so vast inside it was stacked with possibilities.

Prospects. Options.

Rocket Boots.



Val Whitlock is a writer, counsellor and musician. She has an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the University of Birmingham, where she is currently a PhD candidate with a university doctoral scholarship. Her research involves writing a hybrid book which blurs boundaries between poetry, prose, fragments, and other forms. She is also the co-author of five internationally bestselling children’s books on singing, published by Boosey & Hawkes. She gets excited about guitars, books, Stephen Sondheim, and books. She can often be spotted loitering with her greyhound Casper.

12 May 2021