"How Do You Plead at Night?" & Other Poems

Illustration by Sofie Praestgaard

How Do You Plead at Night?

Where were you on the night in question?
You know, that night when I squatted on some stars
and shat out a shiny new constellation,
and wrote with Queen Elizabeth I's diamond
on a pane of glass, as small as my broken fist.

I dreamed up some caramel fruits and shared them
with the hungry and thirsty, and grateful smiles
gleamed at me and I felt great, until some addicts
whined for cheese. Also I might have read about
the fruits in a Narnia book. Still, needs must —
I whipped up wheels of cheese, fragrant with fruits.
So everyone was happy.

I was mighty until you.
The night in question —

I wrote poems in sand so that I could feel
soulful and not shallow, and as if I don't need
publication and more cash than you can shake
a need at. I thought about the sea and saw
my marvellous poetic face reflected in it.
I'm being sarcastic.

Green grow the trees and so I brushed them neatly
and combed the crap out of the oceans
so the world could look its best for you and me.
I stamped on the nay-sayers with my big sausage boots.
Just saying. You held a whole bowl of everything
all thanks to me, you know.

And everything I made, thought, felt or wrote
that night was trite, trite, trite: I love you,
I miss you, come to me, I love you, come to me.
And did you come to me? No! You did not!
I ask the Court — is this the action of an innocent person?


Early days of cameraphones
and the geeks are showing off:
“I can store up to 16 photos!”
like tiny birds fluffing and puffing
up plumage to attract mates.

Far too many of us in this tent.
An outside wedding? Really?
The minister and I lean against
the metal poles of the entrance
as thunder and rain sweep the sky
with their complaints.

Then everything whites out

— and I miss a few beats —

I’m sitting on the ground.
I think I was lying down before
but I had no mind to register that.
My palms and the soles of my feet hurt.
My brain is caught
in some photo moment I can’t see.

The minister is there too
with his hair on end. Weird!
It has just struck me
that lightning has happened.
A smell of burning, and
“Cathy, your HAIR!” I looked
in someone’s pocket mirror,
and saw my hair going the wrong way.

Later, the minister and I
would twitch throughout the service
“Do you take this –“ (uncontrollable
writhing) “– to be your lawful wedded – “
— that was after the bride galumphed
up to the ceremonial bower and someone said,
“Smithers: release the hounds.”

It’s all half-remembered
except for one image: as I sat there
in shock, the sight of a flock
of geeks, flapping and shaking
their phones, which, I’m sorry
to say, were permanently fried.

I Bought Nothing For a Year And

— it SUCKED.
At no point did I and my family
build a birdhouse out of driftwood
while laughing and connecting.

But my computer broke, I lost
my scissors and I missed
going to charity shops

At no point was I compelled
to reassess my relationship to things
and remember how unimportant they are
because they aren't
I need scissors to open the bag
of my medication each month

Someone said just don't buy stuff
unless you need it
which wasn't helpful either
because need is a word loaded
with stuff and things

Basically and believe me it was basic
I stopped spending twenty quid a month
on books and clothes at the charity shop
and instead had twenty quid left over
to save
which is no substitute for books and clothes
from charity shops
It doesn't help the charity shops either

I started spending again. No-spend years
are great if you wasted a lot of money
in your normal life but just don't do that, ok?
I went back to my normal life
though it's not normal I know. No life is.

Perhaps I'd have been successful
if I'd had children, spent loads of money
then tried not doing, and instead
built a birdhouse out of driftwood
while laughing and connecting,
but fuck that shit, right?

Cathy Bryant

worked as a shoe shop assistant, life model, civil servant and childminder (among other jobs) before writing professionally. She has won 27 literary awards, including the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize and the Wergle Flomp Award for Humorous Poetry. She co-edited the anthologies Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1, 2 and 3, and Cathy's own books are 'Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature', 'Look at All the Women', 'How to Win Writing Competitions' and 'Erratics'. Cathy is disabled and lives in Cadishead, UK. She also runs the Comps and Calls listings site of free opportunities for impoverished writers at www.compsandcalls.com/wp.

All contributions from Cathy Bryant

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