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BooksJanuary 20, 2023

The Friday Poem: ‘Ali dies of cancer and I am not allowed to visit’ by Lily Holloway

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A new poem by Lily Holloway.

Ali dies of cancer and I am not allowed to visit

Anxious in small groups, tetras will start nibbling

at their tank-mates. I never see it happening.

No piece of fin floating up, no bone stark

against the charcoal filter. They must be

swimming in it, though, in the parts

of once shimmering bodies. Atoms

of eye or tail rushing through

gills. It’s a quiet horror,

waking up to

find there’s

only one


If only

death gently

revealed itself

like a magic trick

or godwit migration.

We could say she is gone now

because the world was anxious to take

her back into itself and as a child I would

understand, I am proof enough of what remains.

Better to have left in the night than be pulled apart.

Better a ghost ship than to rip at twin bodies in the dark.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are now being accepted until 31 January 2023. Please send up to three poems in a Word or PDF document to

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