Cath Drake

Cath Drake, an Australian who lives in London, has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in the UK, Australia and US, and also performs her work widely. She has been short-listed for the Venture Poetry Prize and the Manchester Poetry Prize, and was second in the 2017 Resurgence Poetry School eco-poetry prize (now called Ginkgo) and highly commended in 2019. Sleeping with Rivers won a Mslexia/Seren poetry pamphlet prize and was a Poetry Book Society choice. The Shaking City, her first full collection, is out in 2020 with Seren Books. Her work has included environmental writing, award-winning journalism and teaching mindfulness.


The Before

Inside a jarrah box carved with roses is warm air
from the day I met him in 1925 at Matilda Bay
when the flare of early summer drifted
up my skirt and inside the folds of my blouse.

He took my hand to ease my step from the jetty
to the swaying boat – goose pimples trickled
along my arms. Our eyes met then flicked away;
my hem brushed the damp deck but quickly

dried out and bright light spilled everywhere.
Granddaughter, there’s a spot on the bow for you
with the breeze in your hair – hold on
as we skim the water together, face in full sun.

This is when we had everything at once –
it would have suited you, as much as it did me.
Here, I’ve kept the box for you, dug it out
from under the furs and beads. Inside

is the before: before the shrapnel ate him away,
before the wild temper and all that came after
and because of, all that meant we could not
reach you. Here, open the box, it’s yours.

© 2020 Cath Drake