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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Alexandra Kollontai; Lark; Rhys

By: Zoe Halse

Alexandra Kollontai

‘But is she really in love with the revolution, 

or just the revolutionary?’

‘I’m inclined to reorder 

your terms,’ he replied 

mindfully extinguishing his cigarette.

‘..or, better yet, to remind you that she may be ‘the’ revolutionary’

                                                                  Intercepted the other female.

Infused with the residues of competing

ideologies concerning the integrity of his wife, 

Alexandra, whilst tangled in the embers of their old life- he lit another

‘What is to be done?’

‘For her?’ chewing the holder. 

Snapping the little case shut 

the kind of resolution he reserved for such microcosms

 he hesitated. Having collected the last of himself for a final and irreversible inward retreat, he shrugged. ‘It is no longer our prerogative. I therefore suggest we dress the dogs in doublets in anticipation of’


Smoke momentarily clouding his features,

 ‘Our demise.’ He smiled drily.

Her son lingered imperceptibly in the expanse of the far doorway,

 borne back between the book cases where

 the designated heroes of times past and present were neatly pressed into aesthetic apparitions of history and reality. 

He lent against the spine of the shelf, feeling the slightest of shifts 

                                                                                                                            under his weight.

Later, in the inner recesses of a formerly crowded room 

he saw her.     He caught the small face in his hands and the features slipped 

almost beyond recognition- like clay or alabaster, moulded in and out of shape. Her feet, suspended over the edge of the small sofa, 


familiarly to her slippers. Poised over the brink of drunkenness he fumbled, in a hurry for the face

to regain the likeness he had seen in it before

 he’d interfered with it. 

Meanwhile she’d indelicately 

toppled     — into the aforementioned state 

She groaned lightly in appeal.

Smiles erupted spitefully over the faces of passing girls 

Their iron wrought curls stuck stupidly to their scalps, their foreheads. 

The mother, she agitated on the front lines. 


Not looking at each other but at ‘us’ through various filters. Mayfair, Sierra and gingham. An extension of myself for a third, similarly disingenuous persons. When the prose reach their crescendo, shatter into verse, crack explode are channelled into something more ethereal accidental                       

carved deliberate. 

He tells me more than once not to be ‘so’ materialistic. From this I took, ‘a bit’ to be a concession from him, to be desired. A cupcake slice of that trait makes the reckless abandon, the hotel rooms and five-pound sauvignon a bearable kind of sordid. He has a personal flare for trainers which impress upon me that he’s really just a spoilt child. 

Aesthetic apparitions of histories crowd the bookshelves I imagined for him. Then I heard Trump has a similar thing; Chesnutt’s blue vein society and the empty covers prevails in my memory. I crave the aesthetic brutality of Danish interior design but I come from clutter and cluttered lives. The syntactical discipline, the efficiency of Kincaid- cannot be born from endless Staffordshire dogs and painted, purely decorative, tea pots. 

It was quite a long-winded story I passed off to every passing psychiatrist. Bentham’s panopticon and why I couldn’t possibly sleep. I organized my books, lined them stood up by the door, so they would tumble into each other like dominos when they came to get me. The healthcare assistant smiled as she said to her colleague- ‘Too Pretty’. Isn’t that an African slight against privileged whites or is that something I imagined based on a single one of Adichie’s women?

Little patronisations it was difficult to divide from kindness. At the Benefit counter I’d tried out a mascara. When I explained I was staying at the priory, that time, the girl- woman said Don’t let|any one|judge you. I must have been comforted for lack of a more sophisticated emotion being able to mutate, flourish under the influence of new and equally damning prescription druggery. 

The degradation of this evening we’ll forget as he plays thoughtfully with the rings on my fingers. Imaginarily, he dwells on the actual finger, allowing wax to drip on his. I was too afraid to run my own through the flicker protruding from the old Jack Daniel’s bottle that seemed so affected. Invented hatreds, crude summaries of lofty subjects, amateur stabs at make-believe. His eyes as intense as daggers but he flits them about candidly as if it doesn’t matter. 

Homeland is good, if you can ignore the casual racism that underlies the entire story line

      - ‘I do in life’ 

I said I liked sushi- she said, repeated her neat little witticism, ‘But let’s be honest, it’s so b-ou-jee’ Let us get falafel then. In Berlin- It’s all I ate, every day. The bourgeoisie now breeds in Peckham apparently. 


Smile please- the familiar entreaty of old men on the street,

Much to our rage, eroding our carefully painted faces, that endless devotion, interrupted with regular creases buried in and in by reluctant concessions of basic human need for reciprocation. I thought it was so clever of Jean Rhys- I pictured her furs dulled by the same condescension, dolling out builder’s tea with feigned, knees, to get passed the traffic lights without one’s confidence being further divided- ‘There’s a hole in your tights.’ Damn, a desire so strong as just one of the dithering dears, to smash their faces in- just once, with a bottle. But smoke curled around his features and dabbed at reality so pleasingly, lamp light incisions pronounced my bone structure, stroked my self-image, so generous- yet subtly, I didn’t even shudder

; So profanely flattered that here I am in my own flat alone, stupid and hammered. 


Zoe Halse is an English Literature graduate and Speech and Language Therapy student from Leicester. Her interest in poetry was ignited during her English degree at University of Sussex. This is her first published work but she is determined to continue writing whilst also pursuing her career as a Speech and Language Therapist. 

"I was interested in the women Alexandra Kollontai and Jean Rhys and the resonance of their work and writing, its relevance to women’s experience today. Alexandra Kollontai was a leading figure in the Bolshevik party and Russian revolution (and a writer) who abandoned her aristocratic family to join her party comrades and Jean Rhys was an author who lived much of her life in relative obscurity. For me, referring to their experiences opened up the opportunity to explore some of the complexities of women’s issues. I was particularly driven by the idea of female complicity and subversion in one and the same stroke. Rhys' and even Kollontai's fictional women are dependent on men and obsessed by the promise of material things however are frustrated by their impossible positions and competing desire to resist, as I read them."


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