Four Poems by F.C. Malby

Believe Her

Trigger warning: this poem alludes to sexual assault.

when she tells you he touched
her in inappropriate ways,

inappropriate places, asked
if he could just take a photo

with your top off, please, please.

Bought her things that raised

eyebrows. She knew she couldn’t
be bought but that did not stop

him from sticking a price to her body
and making her sweat. Believe her

when she tells you she feels
unclean and ashamed. Ask her

if she is ok, tell her she did the
right thing because she will
wonder. Oh, how she will
wonder — when the people she

trusted turn against her, people
she thought might know better

but they don’t, because no one
ever talks about it, hiding their

eyes and covering their ears
because it’s distasteful,

discomforting, challenges the
status quo, rocks the equilibrium

of society and social groups.
Tell her she did the right thing

when he is questioned, or after
he has died and his family is

still grieving. Believe her when
she tells you he was frightening

and forceful, when he was loved
and revered by so many. Tell her
it was right. Think of your daughter
or niece or granddaughter. You

will be doing the right thing if you
believe her, help others to see

the truth.


Swirls of Blues and Yellows

The clouds swirl
with blues and
yellows, the stars
mingling with the
night sky, rolling like
balls of fire over the
hills of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
The scene is a dizzy

fusion of lines
and Catherine
Wheels of colour. The
houses sit quietly,

waiting for sunrise. The
streets, empty, the homes
quiet. The bustle of
the day is behind and

it is impossible to
know what lies
ahead. For now,
the homes are at rest,

while the sky scrambles
over the hills, sweeping
its balls of fire, into
another galaxy.


Sugar Lines Her Lips  

Sugar lines her lips the way salt
lines the rim of a tequila

shot. She throws words at me
after a long shift. Her bite

unmoved by the sugar. The sting
and tang remains. She uses

words that she says tells me she
loves me, doesn’t mean

the harsh ones. Baby, you know
I don’t mean it.
And it does,

sting, makes me catch my
breath, purse my lips,

breathe
through my teeth and she

tells me she wants me really I do
she says but the words no longer
burn or sting, no longer satisfy

the part of me that loved her

once. Come here and climb in
with me
feels more like salt

than sugar, no longer thrills me
and she no longer feels like home.


Cheap Cider

Sweet sixteen, they say,
and it was, as we swigged
cheap cider from oversized
plastic bottles with the
others, passed it round, met
on the set of The Mikado. He
persuaded me to go for a
walk, kissed me on the lane
outside the school. It was a
strange sensation, the first
kiss, made my head spin. He
had electric blue eyes, wide
lips and a girlfriend, but he
met me at the bus stop and
walked me to school, minus
the girlfriend. I watched him
sing Go Go Go Johnny Go
with the band and his black
leather jacket and floppy
blonde hair, his eyes
scanning the room for mine
as he strummed, reaching
for the chord changes, winking
at me, making my stomach flip.
I wouldn’t find out about Chuck
Berry until years later when I
could still hear the Swedish
guitarist singing about Johnny,
that he never ever learned to read
or write so well, but he could play
a guitar like a-ringing a bell.

Field parties turned into beach
parties until we lit fires and those
turned to house parties until the
police were called. Neighbours
didn’t like the spillage on to
the streets, didn’t like the noise. I spilt
red wine, it bled on to the white
carpet as we filed out and he took
the blame. Those days stretching
into Fridays at the Arts Centre,
all in black and denim and
paisley, listening to The Cure,
The Mighty Lemon Drops and
U2; when he was sent to the
States for the summer, he told his friend to watch over me. I
never needed watching over.
Friday I’m in Love was the
soundtrack to those years
where I felt free, felt alive. This
was the summer of love.


F.C. Malby’s work has been widely published online and in print. Her stories have won several competitions and she was nominated for Non Poetry Publication of the Year in the Spillwords Press 2021 Awards. Follow her on Twitter at @fcmalby and on Instagram at @fcmalby.

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