“I don’t want gardening and all that crap. / Fornication. That’s what a man needs.”

Siân Hughes’ use of idiomatic language is superb, and often has the effect of lulling the reader into a feeling of the quotidian, leaving him or her unprepared for the poem’s ending. More on Hughes, pulled from her publisher’s Web site: 


Siân Hughes was born in 1965 and grew up in a village in Cheshire. She studied English at Durham, Birmingham and Reading, and is now a postgraduate student at The University of Warwick. She has lived in Birmingham, Stafford, Manchester, London, Devizes and Oxford, sometimes with a partner, but more often alone, and now lives more or less in the middle of nowhere with her two young children.  


She has worked as an infant teacher, a community publishing worker, education officer for The Poetry Society, English lecturer, journalist, writer-in-residence, shop assistant, life-model, washer-up, sandwich-maker, mother and step-mother.  


Out of sheer rage that her second novel was not good enough to get published, she began writing poetry on an Arvon course in 1994, and in 1996 won the TLS / Poems on the Underground competition with “Secret Lives”. She published a pamphlet of poems “Saltpetre” with smith/doorstop in 1998 and in 2000 won a Southern Arts Award for Poetry. Her work appeared in Anvil New Poets III in 2001. In 2006 she won first prize in The Arvon Poetry Competition with “The Send-Off”, an elegy for her third child.


And from Hughes’ new book, The Missing:



The Double at Highbury


The day Arsenal won the double you stayed out of town

while I went looking for a houseboat for one.

It was moored under the tropical aviary at the Zoo

and, having no engine of any kind, was staying there.


The toilet arrangement was a bucket and hose

and relied on the cover of darkness. This was June,

but the owner made light of the way the tin roof

turned it into a floating methane-fuelled oven.


There was a washing-machine, with a patched out-let pipe

and a generator wired to an illegal stand on the tow path.

The owner waved his cigarette in the vague direction

of the single bunk bed and told me to look round.


On the way home I struck lucky in the local hospice shop

with exactly the right kind of shirt for £4. It’s amazing

what people throw out. I was home before the whistle,

when shouting and horn-blowing filled the street,


went on until the sirens joined in at eleven. All night

heat held the sounds in close-up. The air would not move.

I waited for you to call soI could hold the receiver

up to the open window and let you into my world.





Your desk faces north, mine faces the wall :

over each of them you hang a picture

of your wife, in case we forget who we are

or what we are doing here. ‘After I’m dead,’

you say, ‘she’ll come back for the library.’


The staircase separates fiction from drafts,

pornography fills the loft. The landing

with a leaking roof (biography, misc.)

is ordered on a private system (by friends,

of friends, for sale, the rest.)


If I take the basement, (romance, plays) you’re left

with everything you like to think might be true :

poetry, newspapers, letters, Fine Art, those volumes

in dark covers under the sink, her memoirs, bath books,

city guides, dictionaries, and all the stuff in the attic.



Secret Lives


Sometimes your dressing gown unhooks

and slides out under the garden door

with three aces up his sleeve.


He flies in the face of next door’s dog,

back flips down the middle of the street,

opening himself to the breeze.


Something in pink nylon flutters a cuff

from an upstairs window. He twirls his cord

to beckon her outside.


They’re heading for a club they know

where the dress code is relaxed midweek,

and the music is strictly soul.



The Girl Upstairs


The girl upstairs wears white lycra shorts

even in winter. ‘They’re comfy’

she says, ‘What’s the problem ?’

From the back door you can hear

the steady scratch of her electric meter.


The corner shop sends messenger boys

up the road with her grocery boxes.

Cling peaches in syrup, carnation milk,

baby carrots, peas. Her freckles

are pale orange under a homemade tan.


The landlord says ‘She could make it nice.

Homely. But she’s not the type.’

Her boyfriend laughs. ‘When I come home

I don’t want gardening and all that crap.

Fornication. That’s what a man needs.’


read more hughes …