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Allison  McVety
Allison McVety

Allison McVety’s first collection, 'The Night Trotsky Came to Stay' (Smith/Doorstop, 2007), was the overall winner of the 2006 Book & Pamphlet Competition, and was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize 2008. Her second collection is Miming Happiness (Smith/Doorstop, 2010). Allison's poems have appeared in The Times, PN Review and on Radio 3. Allison was shortlisted for the inaugural MMU Poetry Prize 2008.

The Night Trotsky Came to Stay
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The Poetry Business Presents: Allison McVety

Allison McVety

In Little Black Dresses


You’ll find them in the changing rooms upstairs,

shucking off familiar things, stepping out

of marriages and motherhood and down

to smalls, the known particulars of pleats

and folds until the years have slipped away

like underskirts and they are girls and girls

not wanting to be thin, or young, or tall,

or someone else, but just to have their due.

Not stitched-up in emperors’ suits of clothes

but with new labels pressing at their necks,

in Selfridges they change. And pulled from rails,

the chance to wear their real lives for an hour

over lunch, to re-dress the short-term self

in LBDs, their cloth re-cut and spot-

lit in the cubicles of might-have-been,

clean lines now, in dresses that fit them well.

Town House, Tansley Drive


Up past the gasometer, the blueprints

and footings for Meadowhall, a little further on

from the substation, the launderette

and the old dear interrogating the street

in her winceyette, searching for the shelter,

asking no one in particular if they’re Ernest.


Halfway up a lung-burst climb (and a bastard

to take in the ice) is our drive sloping away.

We spent Februarys digging out, digging in.

And if the road wasn’t enough, there were two flights

to finish us off. Do you remember the wall-heaters

on each landing – just the whiff of a warm –


the one on the top floor where you stood night

after night, looking out over the cooling towers,

up the M1? And me, one flight down, asking

where you were going, where you had been.

Twenty years on and it’s still me and the old dear

asking the questions. Asking, and asking again.

In the Reading Room at the British Library


you can hear the sea. And in this noiseless place,

a pin drop from a milliner’s grip some ninety years

away, or a wren caught in the eaves of a sudden thought.

There’s a finger, sweat greasing its trigger at dawn

as it eases back to join the volley of twelve Enfields

in the yard, dust falling from the walls as we all

fall in time. A rage of sound exalted to stillness

and it carries down the decades. Even after-hours

the librarians whisper here, afraid to weigh their loss

or private joy against the din. As though one

misplaced word could creak like a nightingale

on a parquet floor, jar like a note in a symphony

of counted bars at rest, could make you miss the atom

cracking with the thunder of a goldcrest’s heart.






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