Relapse by Natalie Holborow

As the ferns glitter and stiffen, I pray for her

cleaved to the radiator, turning a book with her feet,

her fingers shoved like razor clams

behind coat-sleeves.


I pray for her bones dragging themselves to the bathroom,

her hand tugging the light, searching the pristine step

for her value in pounds. The dial

flickers. She lifts her toes.


Every autumn, she harvests herself: unpicks the blooms

from her tendons, plucks her heart from its stem—

horrified at its plumpness,

its brazen thud


and I pray for it, small as a clownfish, utterly despised.

It flops pathetically in her palm. She weighs the ounce

of her life, puffs it off in a cloud.

Snows into dust and bone.

Natalie Holborow

Natalie Holborow

NATALIE ANN HOLBOROW is a Swansea-born writer of poetry and fiction. In 2015, she won both the Terry Hetherington Award and the Robin Reeves Prize, and in 2016 was named as runner-up in the Wales PENCymru New Voices Award. She has been commended and shortlisted for various others including the Bridport Prize and Hippocrates Prize.

Natalie’s work has recently appeared in The Stinging Fly and the New Welsh Review. She is currently working on her first novel with the aid of a Literature Wales bursary.
Natalie Holborow

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  1. A masterpiece in a few lines. Humbled reading this, all that restrained emotion held together to lead us to “she weighs the ounce of her life.”
    TS Eliot has lines in Song For Simeon that have stayed with me since my teen years
    “My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
    Like a feather on the back of my hand.
    Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
    Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.”