Kidderminster Church
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My future was described to me in detail by a brisk man, in a town famous for making carpets

“You’re Ian McMillan!” he says, his finger jabbing the air between me and him. I nod. “You’re a poet!” he says. His voice is rising a little.

I clamber off a train at Kidderminster Station and my glasses glint in the late-afternoon sun. This is happening a few years ago, so my hair isn’t completely white and I’m a little more rotund than I am these days. Some things don’t change, though: then, as I do now, I’m carrying a bag packed with pamphlets and books of my deathless verse, because I’m hoping to sell them at my poetry reading at the library later. The train chugs away and I walk out of the station.

A man hurries towards me. If one word defined him, it would be the word “brisk”. He is briskness personified, in the shining, multi-buttoned leisurewear of the recently retired. He fixes me with a gaze that is only slightly softened by the privet hedge of his eyebrows. He points at me. I stop walking and stand as still as a chess piece.

“You’re Ian McMillan!” he says, his finger jabbing the air between me and him. I nod. “You’re a poet!” he says. His voice is rising a little. It’s not that he’s shouting, but it feels like he has the capability to shout. Again, I nod. I feel that I should speak, so I say, “Yes, I am.”

“You’re reading your poems at the library tonight!” he says, his finger pointing up the road. This is so strange. My short-term future is being fleshed out for me by a complete stranger in a town in the Midlands famous for making carpets. I feel like a bare room that is being carpeted by a random stranger. I nod again.

A couple are watching us, nervously, as if the man were dangerous. I have to admit that I feel a little nervous, but I feel more intrigued. The man points again.

“The event,” he says, as though reading from a brochure, “begins at 19.30 and will finish at 21.00. You will read and discuss your work and then you will take questions from the audience. Light refreshments will be served before and after the reading.”

I am laughing now. I agree: “Yes, that’s what’s due to happen.” The man somehow seems to be generating his own heat. I’m sweating, and I see that he is, too.

“The tickets are £5 full price and £3 for concessions,” he trumpets, “and the meeting room at the library holds about 60 people.” He is now parading local knowledge that I don’t possess, but I carry on nodding. The couple also nod, so he must be right.

The man steps closer to me in the waning Kidderminster afternoon. His breath smells of mints. He is friendly, but assertive. He repeats his roll-call of facts: “You’re Ian McMillan. You’re a poet. You’re reading your poems at the library tonight. The event will begin at 19.30 and finish at 21.00. You will read and discuss your work and then you will take questions from the audience. Light refreshments will be served before and after the reading. The tickets are £5 full price and £3 for concessions.” He stares at me. I nod. “That’s all true,” I say. The couple have open mouths like Os.

He leans in. “I’m not coming!” he shouts, and he turns and walks briskly away. 

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Spring Double Issue

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Brexit… Leg-sit

A new poem by Jo-Ella Sarich. 

Forgot Brexit. An ostrich just walked into the room. Actually,
forget ostriches too. Armadillos also have legs, and shoulder plates
like a Kardashian.  Then I walked in, the other version of me, the one
with legs like wilding pines, when all of them

are the lumberjacks. Forget forests. Carbon sinks are down
this month; Switzerland is the neutral territory
that carved out an island for itself. My body
is the battleground you sketch. My body is
the greenfield development, and you
are the heavy earthmoving equipment. Forget
the artillery in the hills
and the rooftops opening up like nesting boxes. Forget about

the arms race. Cheekbones are the new upper arms
since Michelle lost out to Melania. My cheekbones
are the Horsehead Nebula and you are the Russians
at warp speed. Race you to the finish. North Korea

will go away if you stop thinking
about it. South Korea will, too. Stop thinking
about my sternum. Stop thinking about
the intricacy of my mitochondria. Thigh gaps
are the new wage gaps, and mine is like
the space between the redwood stand
and the plane headed for the mountains. Look,

I’ve pulled up a presentation
with seven different eschatologies
you might like to try. Forget that my arms
are the yellow tape around the heritage tree. Forget
about my exoskeleton. Forget
that the hermit crab
has no shell of its own. Forget that the crab ever
walked sideways into the room.
Pay attention, people.

Jo-Ella Sarich is a New Zealand-based lawyer and poet. Her poems have appeared in the Galway Review and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear