Selected Poems by Clementine E. Burnley

Jul 19, 2023

Recovering the memory of water


You can see Africa from the high Alpujarra they say
from a bus window. So, I have packed cucumbers,
sheep’s milk cheese, and a Conference pear.

I seek a place here, where dry fields sketch
a geography of separation.
Everywhere, underfoot
is the memory of water.

From the winding road I look for the glint
of a thousand poly tunnels.
Nothing grows where songs in Arabic
once enlivened the citrus groves.

I imagine inside the glass houses
the harsh reek of captive fumes.
Green leaves caressing dark flesh.
Berry crops are fattened by unnatural warmth.

Outside, where ancient Berbers
studied the behaviour of snow
the rain arrives in sudden bursts
like tears shed for a poet.




The year is 1950


In their twenties, women who live in colonies
all over the world tie their shoelaces and march
right over the sea, onto hospital wards in London
where they midwife a generation
of East End market traders’ sons.
The first time
a trader cries out
I have a boy, I have a boy!
my aunty thinks: who am I to judge?
When the proud father comes to hug her
she’s caught off guard
nearly drops the squalling
squirming vernix-covered child.
I really don’t like this, she thinks.
Na so man-dem dey here?
They should learn to not hug up on people-dem
no matter how glad.
So, this is my life now.

Clementine E. Burnley is a feminist migrant mother, writer, and trainee psychotherapist. She lives in Edinburgh. Her work has appeared in Magma, The Poetry Review, and the 2022 flipped eye anthology Before Them, We. She’s a 2021 Royal Society of Literature Sky Arts Award Winner, an alumnus of Obsidian Foundation, and a 2021 Edwin Morgan Second Life Grantee.

Website: IG @Ewokila, Twitter @decolonialheart

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