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a beet poem

beetroot is the vegetable of the year!
followed by

I always say turnips for parsnips
as I often say Tuesday for Thursday
what can we do?
beetroots don’t grow in deserts
but deserts are funny
because British people order them in restaurants
when they don’t pronounce French very well
desert / dessert
désert / dessert
tonight Nicky cooks a beetroot soup
it is Wednesday the day for beetroot soup
        did you know in hard times
        women used beetroot for make-up?
        and burnt matches for eyeliner
I pick a cube of beetroot on the bunker
in the bathroom I apply it to my lips
and on my cheeks        
beetroot used to come in cubes
at the canteen at school
it was not a popular starter
the half grapefruit with sugar neither
we only licked the sugar on top
making a face when it felt acidic
cut a beetroot in two
apply each bit
on your cheeks
get red regular circles
on your cheeks
go to the disco!
you look like
the woman who sees
the sharpness of sorrow
rusting the theatre set
dance till the morn!
later that Wednesday night
Nicky said
        you still have beetroot
        on your lips 



"What a piece of work is a poet, forever in the here and now and the when and whenever, a poet all of the time whether they try to be or not, whether they’re thinking about reading a book while reading a book, remembering cubed beetroot, obliquely referencing polar bears, or considering the cognitive processes of a Siamese cat eating polystyrene. the male poet and the female poet… is a long poem made of shorter poems, a beautiful murmuration, a writer moving through the world doing this and doing that, noticing everything, finding nothing negligible, seeking connection and always, always making magic." —Tom Jenks



"Anne-Laure Coxam has an ornithologist’s eye for the human, and a great ear for the ambient language she shapes and detourns. There’s such range in this collection, from heartbreaking short lyrics to satirical prose, tracing the growth, crises and gentle unknotting of a relationship. Everywhere, too, there’s a solidarity with all migrant and precarious beings. It’s all the more moving for the wry humour Coxam finds in her clinical observations of the bird-people, and of her own strategies for living as one of them. A beautiful book, and thoroughly recommended." —Peter Manson


"Exciting times! Need advice on unplugging a brexiter? Or how to perform surgery on fixed toxic primary binaries? Still dreaming of a common metaphor? Who you gonna call? Get Anne-Laure Coxam on speed dial. Catch her at the beach recycling language with bits of coconut and razor clam. Move over David Attenborough, tell Hélène Cixous the news!—Here comes Coxam's poetry 'sobbing and [...] trembling regularly and fiercely like an animal who dreams'." —Jane Goldman

the male and the female poet go to the surgery... by Anne-Laure Coxam

  • passenger to

    the versions of Martha’s life differ
    but for certain 
    she died
    first September 1914
    even if she survived a stroke 
    in Cincinnati Zoo


    her male companions died
    in 1909 and 1910
    after which tragic event
    a reward of $1000 was offered
    to find Martha a mate


    her dead body was frozen 
    by the Cincinnati Ice Company
    sent by express train 
    to Washington DC


    she was skinned 
    her skin mounted
    her internal parts 
    dissected and preserved


    from the 20s through the early 50s
    displayed on a small branch
    fastened to a block of Styrofoam
    Martha was paired with a male


    a male she never met 
    as he had been shot
    in Minnesota in 1883


    Styrofoam is a trademarked brand of
    closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam
    commonly called “Blue Board” 
    from 1956 to 1999 Martha was displayed 
    in a long exhibition called The Birds of the World


    she was moved to San Diego in 1966 
    to be displayed at a Conservation Conference
    then back to Cincinnati Zoo for the dedication of 
    the passenger pigeon memorial


    Martha was back in Washington
    on display from June 2014 to September 2015
    for the exhibition Once There Were Billions


    Martha was the last 
    known living passenger pigeon 


    “passenger pigeon” derives 
    from the French adjective passager
    meaning brief
    ephemeral or fleeting


    passenger pigeons were once 
    the most abundant bird
    in North America before 
    Europeans hunted them 
    on a great scale 
    and commercialised them         
    as “cheap food”


    the passenger pigeons’ flocks
    were so dense they covered the sky 
    and hid the sun for days


    Europeans found it 
    amusing to shoot
    blindly at the sky 
    being sure to kill a bird


    competitions were soon organised
    with a prize for the man who could kill
    more than 30,000 birds in a day


    worshipping followed destruction


    as Martha was the last passenger pigeon
    authors writing about extinction
    often make a “strange pilgrimage”
    to see her remains in Cincinnati Zoo


    if I was the last known living woman
    nobody would be there
    to preserve my body and place it
    on a Styrofoam bench next to a male
    shot before I was born

  • Anne-Laure Coxam is based in Edinburgh. She is a native French  speaker and writes in English. Her first pamphlet Toolbox Therapy was published by Sad Press in 2016. She had poems published in magazines such as Datableed, Gutter, Erotoplasty and Poetry Scotland, and in anthologies such as Wretched Strangers (Boiler House Press) and Umbrellas of Edinburgh (Freight Books.) 

    In addition to poetry, she has written and delivered bilingual performances about relationships, politics and poetry. the male and the female poet go to the surgery in exciting times and other poems is her first full collection.

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