A Bitter Plum

See this plum. See how this plum fits my mouth;
its furry pit revolves between my tongue until I spit it out.
I use the back of my hand to wipe my lips which wait for—                                                           

Actually my love, it’s not a plum but a stone. See how this stone
fits the palm of that little brown girl’s hand as she plays along the sea’s
edge. Isn’t she so pretty, the way she holds it with such—                                                           

Forgive me, this is really inexcusable of me. It’s not a stone
but a bullet. See how this bullet travels through air, enters the abdomen
of that man with the green vest and heavy satchel—not old, not young,
with the beautiful brown eyes.                                                           

This isn’t a poem about how that bullet fit my mouth, fit the palm
of that little brown girl’s hand as she played along the sea’s edge
and entered the abdomen of that man with the green vest and heavy satchel—
not old, not young, with the beautiful brown eyes.                                                           

It’s a much, much more tangled story.

by S. Niroshini        

Two notes from the Poetry Centre: this evening (Thursday 21 April), join us and Granta Poetry as we bring together the acclaimed Canadian poet Sylvia Legris and our colleague, award-winning poet Mary Jean Chan, in a joint reading and conversation. Hosted by poet and Granta editor Rachael Allen, the event is online and starts at 7pm. To find out more and register, please visit this Zoom link.

This semester the Centre is showcasing the research being carried out by Dr Eric White into the American avant-gardes, and we invite you to join us! ‘Shaking the Lights’ is a series of free digital events, open to all, and continues on Tuesday 26 April with an online lunchtime discussion group looking at poetry by Kathleen Tankersley Young. You can register for the event and find copies of the poems we’ll talk about on the Poetry Centre website.  

‘A Bitter Plum’ is copyright © S. Niroshini, 2021, and is reprinted here from Darling Girl (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy from the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

Niroshini’s poems live at the intersection of beauty, history and violence. They embody the stillness within the maelstrom required to reclaim oneself from unlawful ownership, from colonial and gender-based trauma. We find ourselves on a rooftop in Colombo, in Neruda’s latrine, submerged in the waters of the Indian Ocean, and on the battlefield with Kali, imagined as a mother in conversation with her daughter. The voices contained within each tableau are tenderly devastating, entreating girls, like the gods, to call out their one thousand and eight names.

Find out more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Bad Betty website.

S. Niroshini is a writer and poet based in London. She received Third Prize in the Poetry London Prize 2020 and a London Writers Award for Literary Fiction. Born in Sri Lanka, she was educated in Colombo, Melbourne and Oxford and worked as a solicitor before starting to write poetry, fiction and essays. Darling Girl is her first pamphlet (Bad Betty, 2021). 

You can find out more about Niroshini’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers’ Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books here and follow Bad Betty on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.