The Truth

Long ago, in the Mumbles, my mother wore saris,
all flowing and veiled like the Marys in the giant
picture Bible I’d saved up for. My Father told me
Christ was Krishna – just less colourful. My sister
read philosophy; told me about the aching chasms,
a universe of infinite space between all bodies,
so I hugged her to stop the voice of that truth.

She told me Jesus was no more a God than the tree
outside our house. I loved that oak so agreed
and read the Bible more fervently than ever.
I liked the Bible pictures because everyone
looked dark and foreign like us, with their veils,
beads and saris. I went to chapel in the village,
heard an old man preaching in his Brethren voice.

Their Bibles were small, black with tracing-paper
pages of tiny words and no spaces. They smiled
as I uncovered my Bible for them to see, larger
than myself, full colour, illustrated with mountains,
so I could fall into lands of Palestine, Elam and Judah,
dance through deserts, lament at Jesus’ feet
and sing, yes, he is a tree, he is as warm as wood.

by Jessica Mookherjee 

‘The Truth’ is copyright © Jessica Mookherjee, 2019. It is reprinted from Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019) by permission of Nine Arches Press. You can read more about the book here.

Jessica Mookherjee, highly commended in the 2017 Forward Prizes, presents her second collection of poems, Tigress. Mixing myth, magic and migration, these poems explore the impact of choice upon our lives and concentrate their magnificent, kaleidoscopic imagination on the intricate and often fraught nature of childhood and family, selfhood and womanhood. You can read more about Jessica’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter and on Instagram.

Fierce, often funny, always charged and revealing, Mookherjee’s acute attention to detail tracks lives lived between Bengal, Wales and London. In exploring the intense displacement and loss that marks the experience of migration, the poems move into territories of danger and safety, illness and heartbreak, and ultimately into self-discovery; a rich and sensual moonlit menagerie of bears, big cats, wolves, and ‘forest mothers’. At every step, Tigress is wildly inventive, elegant and utterly distinctive. Read more about the book here and listen to Jessica read another poem from the collection on the Nine Arches YouTube channel.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have now published over ninety poetry publications. Read more about the press here and follow Nine Arches on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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