The Wednesday Poem: ‘Words of praise’ by Ashleigh Young

Every day this week the Spinoff Review of Books is publishing a new poem in the build-up to the Phantom Billstickers national poetry day on Friday. Today: ‘Words of praise’ by Ashleigh Young


Words of praise

On most drives I like quiet because my mother

had a habit of appraising every passing scene, calling ordinary

things, especially any animal standing in a field, lovely


and this instilled in me a strong dislike for the word lovely

and for associated words of praise like wonderful and superb

but on our drive home tonight the sky is categorically lovely


and this pressures one or the other of us to remark on it

by way of maintenance, like parrots preening each other

or like the time my hands were covered in welts and you were forced


to spoonfeed me – but we continue in silence, the asphalt a sheet

of cartridge on which the car is lightly drawn and erased

and the words I pick up and throw out just part of the script


in which we’re going to the bay that is inadequately lit.

Where the sky is burning a thousand photographs

and the sea is sinkwater through which our ancient condiment jars drift.


Over my shoulder, my mother is an object burning up in the atmosphere.

Out here our fairy lights from London shrink into their ball

to darkly bristle. Out here the stars bury themselves in a field.


She is fine in small doses, we say of our mothers

but I crave big doses, an IV flooding me with her words of praise.

A piece of red sky still lying in the field, saying daylight.


Ashleigh Young, 2017

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