by Liz Berry


For years you kept your accent

in a box beneath the bed,

the lock rusted shut by hours of elocution

how now brown cow

the teacher’s ruler across your legs.


We heard it escape sometimes,

a guttural uh on the phone to your sister,

saft or blart  to a taxi driver

unpacking your bags from his boot. 

I loved its thick drawl, g’s that rang.


Clearing your house, the only thing

I wanted was that box, jemmied open

to let years of lost words spill out –

bibble, fittle, tay, wum,

vowels ferrous as nails, consonants


you could lick the coal from.

I wanted to swallow them all: the pits,

railways, factories thunking and clanging

the night shift, the red brick

back-to-back you were born in.


I wanted to forge your voice

in my mouth, a blacksmith’s furnace;

shout it from the roofs,

send your words, like pigeons,

fluttering for home.




© Liz Berry