Richard O’Brien & Jack Nicholls


from Married at First Sight



The earth revolves for funtime Benny boy,
property millionaire at thirty six —
the axis of his mother’s tepid joy,
his father’s bluff vox-poppery. What sticks
in the mind is the man’s utterly naked faith:
his apelike walk, his lion-print moccasins.
He rolls the dice, pictures each card an ace,
then we’re in Poland, baby, sinking gins
and never questioning what love is. Or
bowling about a bare-brick house in Bromley
done up smart for a girl who isn’t there;
hope etched black on his skin which a single smarmy
shop assistant folds into despair.
One kiss: it’s back. Let’s leave them at the door.


Outside the cock balloon: the club, the hen,
the sash round Stephanie, the future twirled
like loo roll round a Sindy, six wrong men
who changed their minds, the churning of the world
distilling grief to scent to Chardonnay
to flippin eck to is this a mistake
to morningmorningMORNING it’s my day,
like nested dreams. They’re smooching over cake.
He wears no socks! Will she witness his death?
For work she has to dress up as a cop.
Today? Princessier than the real thing.
Hair, stay. Body, be fictional. Sweat, stop.
Earth, still. She screams and laughs. Enters the ring.
Inside the cock balloon: dark air, held breath.





Morning! Hotel bathrobes, hotel sunlight,
eating yoghurt off each other’s faces,
growing old. Marriage is a playfight.
Mallorca and Majorca aren’t two places,
and so they go to both. He butterknifes
the suncream on her back with his bare chest.
She bears the weight with care, for it’s his wife’s.
It’s lovely. Overboard, the whitecaps crest
or crash. He sheds the skimpy vest she hates,
but tolerates, because hey look at him!!!
This is her husband, asking You okay?
before he plunges, crooked, blue, to swim
the distance that’s between el el and jay.
He surfaces and calls. She watches, waits.


A dive-bomb into the uxorious!
The honeymoon is one long boat trip. Don’t
these sangrias, this moonlit waterfront,
these sunset-orange trams look glorious?
This is a lonely planet. But there are guides:
we blunder through by touch first, skin on skin,
and then – bonita. Mi mujer – begin
to find the words to navigate the ride.
True, anyone can work in paradise.
Each sunscreened heart becomes an oily smear;
held breath still has to surface, even here.
Old heat diminishes; new’s not new twice.
Am I up to love’s bar, more class than crass?
I wanna be. I think I thought I was.


Richard O’Brien‘s publications include The Emmores (The Emma Press, 2014) and A Bloody Mess (Valley Press, 2015), and work in a range of magazines and anthologies. He won an Eric Gregory Award for his own poetry from the Society of Authors in 2017, and currently works as a Teaching Fellow in Shakespeare and Creativity at the University of Birmingham. He has also been a commissioning editor at the Emma Press, and is the Birmingham Poet Laureate 2018-2020.

Jack Nicholls  is the author of Meat Songs (Emma Press, 2017), and his publication credits include The Poetry Review, The Tangerine and The Best New British and Irish Poets (Eyewear, 2017). A member of the Royal Court Writer’s Group: North, he also curates the experimental cabaret event FLIM NITE.

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