The Combustible Woman

Angela Readman

Sometimes, a man carries bluebells
like water pails knocking at my door.
And I don't know how to let love in.

Sudden, to some, how a woman's face
can light up, not to me. Burners, all of us,
my spine's a black wick, rumours crackle

the charcoal of my family tree. Beware,
those girls are burners, skirts in the wind.
You never know when they'll go up.

Once, I saw a sizzle of cousins by the lake
race from the bright spark of a boy pulling
pigtails, dynamite fuses at his fingertips.

It was the pier where they just combusted,
all that ocean in their ears not enough.
The sisters stepped onto the dance floor,

eyes glitter-balls. One spin, then pouf!
Only two lemon dresses remained, crisp
cotton testimonies to their mother's ironing.

Others smoulder slower towards spontaneity.
My mother's face browned in my father's eyes
as he left. She put me to bed and went

to the kitchen, let her apron glow, blaze
into a white ball by the window, a moon
a man looking back could see for miles. Funny,

how her slippers stayed intact. Not a blister
on his painted walls, she left only a dark ring
on lino, a smell of ham soup simmering the room.

Sometimes, a man carries bluebells, drips of light
I can't let in, my nipples are sulphur, his voice
wraps around my name like fingers rubbing sticks.

Angela Readman

Angela Readman's collection Strip was published by Salt. Her poems have since been commended in The Arvon International Poetry Competition, and won the Ragged Raven Competition, and The Essex Poetry Prize. In 2013 her poetry was short listed in the Jane Martin Prize. She also writes stories and was short listed in The Costa Short Story Prize in 2012.

"Everyone knows a combustible woman, in one way or another, I think," she says.

Angela Readman's Colours/Colors was published by Diamond Twig in 2001; her previous Poem of the Month was Mam and the Cowboys.


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The Combustible Woman © 2013 Angela Readman: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.