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Jo Brandon
Jo Brandon

Jo Brandon was born in Essex in 1986 and raised in rural Lincolnshire. Jo's debut collection, Phobia, was published by Valley Press in 2012. Between 2008 and 2011 Jo was an editor of the literary e-zine Cadaverine, and her work has featured in various publications including Poetry Review, Butchers Dog, Myths of the Near Future, Aesthetica, Dream Catcher and Cake. She graduated with a first class honours degree in Creative Writing from Bretton Hall, University of Leeds in 2007. Jo has been a writer-in-residence for the I Love West Leeds Festival and a BBC-funded young writer-in-residence at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, where her debut play Like a Heartbeat was showcased.

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Jo Brandon Poetry

From Eden Crawled a Salamander
After Johann Jakob Scheuchzer and his Homo diluvii testis


Like all great lessons

he saw it etched in stone

plain enough for any primitive

or intellectual to translate.

The proof, at last, of an inferior species

rested in the stiffness of this creature’s back,

smallness of its skull, crack of its mouth,

fossilized like those sinners of Pompeii,

except God did not turn this creature to ash.

It received the first baptism:

marriage to water you cannot divorce

a deluge

a cleansing.

This creature sank to the bottom

(how deep is merely speculative)

became one of God’s pillars

for the new world

upon which he layered water,

sand, grit, earth, rock and perhaps

there will be water again,

the thing itself dissolved

leaving a cast

of a disgraced population

before Homo Sapiens, before

Homo Erectus, before snakes

lost their legs

and nothing could crawl

on its belly before God.




Our Lady


She paints Mary over and over
her fingertips are stained blue
and gold. Mary’s eyes are always
sketched with a squint as if
she is blind or looking into the centre
of a sun. Her lips are always grey
as if she is painting out Mary's colour,
saving her from accusations of feeling
anything other than pain.

I commissioned her to paint me a smiling Mary
in red and black, Warhol style
give her the look, I said, she would have had
the day Joseph believed her story, lent his name.
She divided the canvas into four, an eye, and an eye,
half a cupid's bow, the corner of a mouth
held apart by her lines. She looked pleased

“Mary couldn't smile without bearing the weight of the cross”
I was informed. I left her to those broad angels and
down-turned mouths she preferred.




Naples 1770

 After Sir William and the first Lady Hamilton by David Allan


I compose tunes crafted light as smoke

tapering off to dramatic crescendos

fast notes whipping fingers

key to key as if they are hot: fingers and the keys.

Unsteady spinet legs quiver, delicacy creaks

he raises a brow, eyes flicking aside,

outside, where she remains coyly quiescent.


I have played the same games, eruptions

followed by quiet, thick days, hissing rock

and poison as if I could race a raised hand.

She has already promised fertility, my husband

waits with half the city. Half desiring fire and brimstone

half familiar with Midas, the dog with two bones…


Evenings spent straight backed over ivory

he over books, sketches, cramped hands.

See him set off in the mornings while she rests

across from my window, perspective altered

day to day as if we are sinking, low mists,

metal studs of his shoes scuffing against grit and terra.

Comes back reddened, reading notes, outlining measurements,

cross sections: science of dissecting things too big to unfold.


Asks me to play a tune tonight

heavy steps across the room are a rumble

anticipating fire, compacting ready-raked ash






It was my father’s name – I bore my own and she hid from it


I wound that ‘B’ around my neck, stringing white, white pearls

they couldn’t bruise, you couldn’t bloody and whispered

to you in French, so my lacklustre truth couldn’t translate

thickened in rich vowels: velvet against damp palms.

You translated my Latin through your masters

– who taught you only the words that please

smiled and held your gaze so you wouldn’t get the wrong idea

too blanched to blush -  you were red enough. Your changeable characters

let me write ‘Sum A .B.’ and you ‘Fidelis pectus pectoris’ that I lived

to believe. You never asked after our name. You remembered only one.

Sweetmeats fell from my dress, you let them fall devouring me instead

– ‘modo niger et ustus fortiter’, my swan song was not sweet

you let me keep a single gilded plume that they all recognise as me.



*Bullen is an alternative spelling of the surname Boleyn


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