The Backroads

She grew simple out there
cabbagey amongst the fields of bitter greens.
She grew simple and wild
like a horse
asked for nothing but food and straw
a place to lie her bones in the darkness.
She let herself forget
how to think of anything
but work
forgot the scarlet flare of the furnaces at night
the smell of crushed violets
let her body shape itself for nothing
but work
and when she woke
work-drunk at cock-crow
her old voice in her throat
the dream heat of her brothers’ bodies
along her spine
she gazed at herself
in the trough’s mottled mirror
and saw reflected the animal
they’d made of her
her skin speckled   hair luggy
her soles thicked to hooves in her boots
and inside    so far inside
they couldn’t touch   her heart
became a horse’s
a trembling flight organ.

Liz Berry’s debut collection, Black Country (Chatto & Windus, 2014), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014.