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The Bone that Sang
The Bone That Sang explores what it means to be human in an imperfect world. A refugee sprints for his life. An at-risk child craves a baby. A one night stand goes hilariously wrong. A beloved mother-in-law takes a final spiritual journey.
Booker’s voice is sharply original, full of stunning imagery and verbal surprises. Often packing a punch, she can also be tender, lyrical and witty. Here are stories of illuminating precision to inspire and challenge.
The Bone that Sang
After the Grimm’s fairy tale
A herdsman, driving his beasts through the torn
mesh of forest, stumbles on a thread
of human vertebrae,
crafts its frail ivory into a mouthpiece,
and a note comes fluting from his lips – its pitch at first
inaudible as the cries of pipistrelles.
In his palace, the generalissimo hoists the ripe meat
of genocide onto his shoulders – builds a cage
from the contortions of his own mouth,
where he constructs truths that walk and talk
like real children.
Ravines clot with secrets. Whispers float
like thistle seed to all corners of the kingdom. He plucks
each chalk-white petal of paperwork
before he signs: she loves me, he loves me not,
he loves me, she loves me not.
Under this vaporizing sun, people suck on pebbles
to assuage their thirst.
Men are turned to firewood, children drop like leaves.
But still he knows, how the vanished can fruit
death caps from any scrape of earth.
That bones sing when they find a ready ear.
Claire Booker grew up in rural Surrey and moved to London where she worked as a journalist for national charities, local government, and BBC Television. She now lives in Brighton.
Her debut poetry pamphlet Later There Will Be Postcards (Green Bottle Press) was well received in 2016. She was commended in 2019 The Poetry Society’s Stanza Competition and has been a winner in three of its Members’ Poems Competitions. Her work has been published in Ambit, Magma, the Morning Star, North, Rialto, the Spectator and Stand among others, and also widely anthologised.
Claire’s poetry has been set to music and performed at the Actor’s Church, Covent Garden; simultaneously performed at six venues as part of the Solstice Shorts Festival; displayed on Guernsey buses; filmed by Aberystwyth University and published by Bucharest University as part of the UK/Romanian poetry collective.
In 2019, she travelled to Bangladesh as guest poet at Dhaka’s International Poetry Summit. She has been invited to read at many poetry venues in the UK, including in London, Brighton, Lewes, Birmingham, Manchester, Maidenhead, Petersfield, Guildford and Winchester.
For more information please visit http://www.bookerplays.co.uk
Nightfall at Skiathos Harbour
Along the drag an old man sets up his telescope:
look at the moon, see Venus, very cheap.
And there they are – heavenly bodies stripped
to their detail.
From here, islands sink like giant turtles.
Water cascades over ice,
my ouzo blurs from clear to milky.
Venus again, bright but tiny, then lost to cloud.
How you both would have loved this –
sipping the evening with its rhythms splashed
across the bay, these singing trees, the hilltop villas
lighting up like advent.
If I could swap, I’d cross the Styx with whatever coin,
leave behind this air worn lightly.
Just as your bodies conjured mine from night,
so I’d return the favour – trade myself
for one of the silver bream
foraging harbour ink, to feel your footsteps
by the water’s edge,
and leap for pieces of your broken bread.
It’s the rope end of night.
A single bed’s no affidavit when you hit thirty.
She heads downtown,
where it’s a snake pit of charmers.
Let’s see which way this’ll swing.
They taxi to his. He sheds skin.
She sheds inhibitions
about starting over, taking risks.
He makes up for shortcomings with heavy grinding
into the polyester wool mix.
The tequila’s still talking,
so he Scarlett O’Haras her up the stairs
to the big brass bed,
where he’s a rattler ‘til daybreak;
her nethers raw and sequined with scale.
All she wants is a soothing bath,
but he’s back, butt-naked, one foot on the tap,
with a Fender Dreadnought,
strumming his signature aubade:
It’s all over now, Baby Blue.
If you skinned him, he’d show a web of bone.
No fat, just legs pistoning along the cliff.
They’ll tell him soon how long she’s got.
I never loved her. But it’s still eating me up.
Daily, he cracks her breasts in the pan as he fries eggs.
Meets her again in the peeler’s rhythmic flick.
Raw white potato. Incised flesh.
Careful - not so near the edge!
Chalk has taken a heavy bite of blue.
Storms send great chunks crashing down –
blind space always in front of him.
She was bad last night. You need your mind to race.
This year he came eighth, third the time before.
He used to win in Belgium against Europe’s best.
Still clocks 12k a day; twenty the week ahead.
Never do the full fifty before a race –
you’ll only frighten yourself. Best not to know
what you’re up against.
View from the Gibralfaro, Malaga
Here, where Caliphs wove empires –
only the call of swifts
breakfasting above burnt ochre crenellations
that steam like washed horses.
From this height, the city’s noise
pools at its ankles.
There are tower blocks, cranes, cement silos,
a cruise liner in its rectangular bath.
A tiny bicycle cuts a stubborn line
along the Avenida de Toros.
In the old town, the cathedral exposes its back –
red, shrunken, almost shameful.
Hill-top churches spread north like a painted Belén.
Even the tips of the sierras seem touchable.
I can see almost everything,
Today, you’ll lay your head in the well-turned soil
of a Surrey morning.
The quiet truth of you
breathed out in snowdrop and celandine.