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Hugh Dunkerley
Hugh Dunkerley

Hugh Dunkerley grew up in Edinburgh and Bath, and now lives in Brighton. He has published two chapbooks, Walking to the Fire Tower (Redbeck Press) and Fast (Pighog Press). His first full collection is Hare (Cinnamon Press). He has been a Gregory Award recipient, a Hawthornden Fellow and a Leighton Fellow at The Banff Centre for the Arts. He currently teaches English and Creative Writing at The University of Chichester.

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Hugh Dunkerley Poetry

First Memory


There’s no way back now

to the scent of cut grass

a whitewashed wall and a green door

the dark, oil-stained garage

my grandfather’s Rover kennelled there

its huge back seat reeking of leather.





Back at his place

she comes in for coffee

and within minutes

they're tearing at each other's clothes,

her tongue sliding against his,

and then he’s inside her,

soft muscles closing round him

I have to get closer to you

and she’s putting her hand over her mouth,

stifling her shouts,

and it's gathering in his thighs,

burning away all thought...


When he rolls over she’s already half-dressed.

I'm sorry, she says, I have to go. I'll ring you tomorrow.

Listening to her drive away

he pictures the darkened house,

her slipping into that other bed.


Long after she’s left, the smell of her

still clings to his fingers, his face,

a musk-delicate scent, almost perfumed.



(First published in Poetry South)




For G and L


Before they shocked you back to life

and you found yourself lying

on the operating table again


-an oxygen mask clamped to your face,

the doctor asking a nurse

if you were breathing-


there was nothing you tell me,

no tunnel with light at the end,

no out of body experience,


no bardo state,

just a profound blank

deeper than any sleep.


For those few seconds, you say,

I died, whatever the medical

profession might want to call it.




Now there’s a tramline down your chest,

a pale seam

no amount of sunshine will darken.


I’m marked for life, you say,

…or is it death?

the memory of those moments


when the heart stuttered and stopped

scarred into its tissue.

Sometimes night you wake at night,


waiting for the slightest arrhythmia,

a missed beat,

for the thick bagpipe of muscle to falter,


the mindless flesh

thumping in your ribcage

de dum, de dum, de dum...



(First published in Hare - Cinnamon Press, 2010)


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