Three poems by Mab Jones

Mab Jones is a “unique talent” (The Times). Writing from the top of a hill in Wales, her subjects are dreams, death, the body, being a woman, being a human, silence, speech, childhood, sexual abuse, and mental health. As a young person, she suffered from Selective Mutism, which now informs much of her writing. Mab’s most recent collection is ‘take your experience and peel it’ (Indigo Dreams, 2016) which won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize. Mab teaches at Cardiff University, runs International Dylan Thomas Day, and freelances for the New York Times.

I’m a woman

I’m a woman. Measure me. Take the tape
of expectation and wrap it round my form.
Like any thing you own I am a shape,
designed to have a certain use; was born
to be placed on view. My circumference
may determine which shelf you put me on.
Am I ornamental? New? Then it makes sense
to have me on display. Older, I belong
in back. A lip may proclaim me pitcher,
bearer of wine, water, children. Pleasure
brims in me. Drink. Eat. I am a platter,
content to carry what you need. Measure
me, and tell me where I should be placed;
whether I may hold riches, food, or waste.

The Weed

I was never as pure as the lily, never as sweet as the rose;
I was a thing that strangles up, an ugly, dirty bit o’ scrub,
That suffocated buttercups and muscled in on marigolds.

Unlike the lily I toiled, and unlike the rose I did not bud;
I was a thing that sprouted, climbed, an ugly tube that grew from slime,
On daisy heads and daffs I dined, and through my roots I ate up mud.

The lily wears an elegant gown, the rose wears elaborate garb;
I was a thin and dirty child, but now I’m fat and strong and wild,
Whole families of flowers have been defiled by my poisoned barbs.

The lily cries sweetly for mercy, the rose bends her soft head and begs;
But I am a thing without feeling or fears, they fall on deaf ears
As I squeeze dry their tears and drink their sweet sap to the dregs.

Poem for the Puya

Written for the wild flower, puya chilensis, which was in bloom for the first time in 10 years at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in 2012. The plant possesses spiked leaves which hook in small creatures and then feed from their blood; however, when it is bloom, its flowers are full of a sweet nectar which animals and even humans can drink.

Puya, they call you. The word sticky
in their mouths. You prickle the roof
of the glass house, unsettle the groups
of visiting classes. Like a nettle, your
leaves are stingsharp, laced with thorns.
“Cruel”, they remark. Your taste is for
animal flesh, which they hook, pull in, and
starve to death. Their blood is your food.

Your bed more wet with this than dew.
from the Andes to Llanarthney you
came. A monster baby in a way: eight
feet tall and closer to a mutant than
a flower. Towering above the others,
a giant in the nursery. Cursed to slowness,
reliant on your new owners, still you
grew, your brontosaurus neck too thick
for them to prune; a Chilean imposter
that loomed above its human masters.

But now, a decade later, you’re in bud,
about to blossom. Your body as round
and fulsome as a woman’s. Crowds
come to marvel, wondering at your
beauty. Eyes hunger for your form.
Cameras snap and looks are thrown,
but sweeter than before. You ignore
them; take no note. Your name now
sweet as nectar in every thirsting throat.


Feature image: Puya chilensis X P venusta S_Teillier 3 by Pato Novoa on Flickr, used under CC-BY-NC-2.0 license.