note: first published on the UK Poetry Society website after winning the BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2016
Anna Kisby is a poet, archivist and author of the pamphlet All the Naked Daughters (Against the Grain Press, 2017). She won the Binsted Arts prize 2019, BBC Proms Poetry competition 2016, and was commended in Faber’s New Poets Scheme. Originally from London, she now lives in rural south-west England. Twitter: @annakisby
We’re in the half-built house
in Vermont – me and the man
I nearly marry, but don’t – unroofed, holes
where windows will fit. In sleeping bags
on untreated boards, night falls and fireflies
arrive – a quickstep, a certainty, a flute added to
flute they synchronise. This was the dreamtime,
the simple time, that time between schooldays
and real life. Do you remember such a time
of firsts? We were living hand to mouth –
dollars counted into palms,
money soft as moth-wings.
In those days we went looking
for what we didn’t know was there.
Our reward: fireflies without borders –
un-tame, a coming-together-last-minute plan.
We watch them sandpaper the sky, they jerk for joy,
they jagger, god’s own migraine. In lightning-tongue
they sing to us 𝐹𝑜𝑟𝑔𝑒𝑡 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑠𝑎𝑑 𝑐𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑙𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡, 𝑤𝑒 𝑎𝑟𝑒
𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑜𝑤𝑛 𝑓𝑒𝑟𝑟𝑖𝑠 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑒𝑙𝑠. Now the roof must be on,
the forest cleared for lawn, each patio slab
a square of extinguished light. Anytime I want
I can catch them there, fireflies in a jar –
a torch-full of past, banging at the sides of this glass.