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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Explore the work on the Ted Hughes Award shortlist before the winner is announced next week: ow.ly/InBZ30adxQy fb.me/1jMCwZvEv

NEXT WEEK we announce the winners of the National Poetry Competition and Ted Hughes Award! Look out for news on the evening of Wed 29 March

"I think of the life of a poet or writer is like being a baker in a patisserie: You have something in the oven,... fb.me/1O9IWb4LG

Michael Symmons Roberts gives a poet's view of Manchester's Intu Trafford Centre on @BBCRadio4 ow.ly/mFfw30adC48

Ian Duhig and Robert Powell will read watery and canal-filled poems at York Literature Festival's Voicing the... fb.me/2cGaOQcjH

Ted Hughes Award shortlistee Salena Godden talks us through a rant poem in her 'How I did it', up now ow.ly/t3nH30adtUj

Watery poems from Ian Duhig and Robert Powell to make you think about your rivers and canals. 26 March @YorkLitFest ow.ly/O76D30ac22v

"For me poetry and art are at the heart of life – a driving force – not a commentary upon it." Caroline Smith... fb.me/4CJzbuIOi