Originally published in Sunshine (Penned in the Margins, 2016). Sunshine was shortlisted for the 2016 Ted Hughes Award For New Work in Poetry.

From the judges: "This collection throws a full beam on the underbelly of life. Melissa Lee Houghton writes with a fierce working class anger producing poetry which is explicit and uncompromising."

You Can Watch Me Undress

by Melissa Lee-Houghton

I used to wear pinstripes, with parrot-coloured love-beads.
I had no idea what I was trying to say or do.
Now clothes hang no better on me at thirty,
my hips being as ample as beach coves in holiday season.
In my wedding dress I had good breasts.
I had tight skin like the hide of a radish
and I wore silver round my neck like it was human flesh.
I was proud of my body once, its general audacity;
the way it made milk and conjured electricity;
the way it wanted and needed a body, not so much viral
as in your bones. In the nineties, febrile-high on ecstasy,
I used to take a bath as the sun came up and I came down,
alone, hot as shame, my pinstripe jacket stuck to the floor,
arms back, like a man pinned by his own misery.
What am I to do? I’m in a £4 dress with knickers
one size too big. I want to touch somebody. Right now.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

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