Jo Bell



Men, believe me. If in doubt just
look her in the eye and say I want to fuck you.
It will work one time in three.

Miss out the games, transactions,
tricks, the leverage of compliments;
the calculations made while she is in the toilet.

Here’s proof. One week of plainsong took us from
yes, I enjoyed the concert to the point where
clothes are an embarrassment.

We are giddy with getting away with it;
stiff and wet with words,
with the waterfall force of telling it like it is.

One time in three, it works.
The other two are lying.


Dear God, those sheets! As purple as Caligula’s underpants
with satin veins and stripes of trip-hop hot brocade.
the clouds of goose down, soft above our sweat
and pillows everywhere, beneath and in between;
small wonder if we went at it like knives.
We brought our bed-ghosts to the feast –
the ones who taught us, heart by heart
to take by giving, giving us our certainty of touch
in earlier rooms – and fell to it, a glut of hurried have
and reach and hold, a giddy skirmish between mirrors.
DO NOT DISTURB. We slept like badgers laying in for winter,
dug a space no bigger than our breathing selves,
your frame laid bare, my curving haunch behind.
We lay just as we fell, and woke in our own pattern
each unmoved by anything but pulse. The light was still as silk
and undeserved, and our two bodies blessed;
this honouring of another’s need, this stash of breath,
this negligence of anything but want and rest.
JO BELL is the former director of National Poetry Day in the UK and is now the Canal Poet Laureate, appointed by the Poetry Society. She has this year won the Charles Causley prize and the Manchester Cathedral prize, and was runner-up in the Wigtown Prize. She runs the online poetry community 52, and her next book Kith is out with Nine Arches Press in Spring 2015.


Read more by Jo Bell:

Author website
Poetry at Waterlines
Poem at Wigtown Book Festival Prize