'Lea(r)ning' & 'Motown': Two Poems by Sam Rose


I didn’t know that some planets have limbs,

the wind nibbling at Neptune’s Arm as we

trickled our way down to its fist like water

droplets about to freeze.

I didn’t know just how cold it would be,

determination keeping us going without

question, despite your ears turning from

rose pink to crimson as if burning, the gale

so cold it could have turned full circle, twirling

us around the clock tower on a whim, swirling

down this seaside street towards castle ruins.

We comment that it is hardly the cathedral

we have been planning to see, but the cathedral

is not even the cathedral I have been planning

to see, as I expected it to be round, as all

cathedrals in my mind are round.

I didn’t know which cathedral I had seen

that gave me this idea.

I didn’t know that our target, the ruins standing

three miles down the beach, would appear and

disappear from view, teasing us as we tease each

other. Today’s nonsense story is tomorrow’s

inside joke. Words meant just for us, a new

dictionary uttered and battered, pages torn

and swept up, read by the wind as we decide

how towns get their names, among other things.

I didn’t know any of this before we collaborated.

Letters leaning on each other, sentences stacked

precariously. One of us pulls out the other’s poorly

chosen word and the structure collapses hilariously

like Jenga, like us on each other. I didn’t know

years ago that I wouldn’t have to build alone.

I didn’t know years ago that we would be here,

that we would be adventuring, in our steps

and in our tales, in Canterbury gales.



CDs and radio

for five hour trips after clearing snow

slipping and sliding between frosted hillsides

sometimes the drives were better than the destination –

despite gifts, polite smiles, selection boxes, envelopes

with notes inside, polite obligations.

Before all that, and in the relief after all that

it was the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack

in the back of the car, stirring it up with Patti Labelle

the heat was on riding through the streets of Rochdale

Or it was Motown all the way – I’ve never been to Detroit

but we have driven to Detroit.

How sweet it was to hear Jr. Walker, The Supremes,

to be with Smokey Robinson, to learn who Papa was

with The Temptations, and learn who my papa was

through what we would listen to. The Isley Brothers,

the whole family, Gladys Knight well into the night

when I might try to read by the intermittent light

of passing lampposts before giving in and just listening.

Sometimes it felt like there were Four Seasons

between the north and the south, or Four Tops,

hilltops, Rockwell being watched while I watched

the white fields pass, the roar of traffic down the M62,

wheels spinning, working our way back home.


Sam Rose is a writer from England and the editor of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. Her work has appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Haiku Journal, and others. She is a three times cancer survivor and will soon be embarking on her PhD, researching the role of poetry in psycho-oncology. Find her at her website https://www.writersam.co.uk and on Twitter @writersamr.

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