Charley Barnes

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Colchium autumnale | How does she look naked?[1]

 

The autumn of our lives arrived sooner

than expected, and you decided to holiday

before the winter. Over dinner you asked

whether I’d ever seen another man naked

apart from you; I asked how

that might have happened.

 

You tried to make the infidelity

sound accidental, as though her bare

form sprouted from the garden

and you, a simple avid pruner, were helpless

to admire the structure of her growth.

 

The favourite meal I’d made let you pause

between lies, and in these beats I asked:

“How does it taste with the saffron?”

It puzzled you, that I might like to know,

but I explained I’d hand-picked it,

meadow-wild and easily mistaken.

 

We all behave strangely in an autumnal crisis.

[1] Colchium autumnale, also known as Naked Lady or Meadow Saffron, can mimic the symptoms of arsenic if administered correctly. It has historically been mistaken for wild saffron by meadow pickers.

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Cercis siliquastrum | Judas[2]

 

It’s light-hearted when I use the name

and you think I’m being jovial.

But I see it as telling you what I know.

 

When I slip the rope around the branch and lower

down the noose, you imagine me over-dramatic, say:

“You can’t really do that.”

 

But I won’t do anything, Judas. You will

tell me whether you loved her, hang

or drop dead trying to lie.

 

You’ve arrived on these wastelands

of Eden without me –

you’ll escape by your own hand, too.

[2]  The so-called Judas Tree is named after the belief that Judas hanged himself from this tree after betraying Jesus. Folklore also states that if an individual tells a lie while standing under the tree they will die there.

Charley Barnes is an author, poet and academic from the West Midlands, UK. Her work has appeared in several journals, including the likes of Riggwelter Press and Picaroon Poetry. She has published two poetry pamphlets, A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache (V. Press) and Body Talk (Picaroon Poetry), as well as a co-authored pamphlet, Hierarchy of Needs: A Retelling, which she wrote with Claire Walker. Her debut collection, Lore, is forthcoming with Black Pear Press. Charley has also published several crime fiction novels, under Charlotte Barnes, available through Bloodhound Books.

 

Charley now spends most of her time reading about plantlore, drinking tea, and walking her dog, Benji, who helps Charley to find inspiration for her work (often in very unexpected places).