National Poetry Month 2017, Week One: “Silence” by Catherine Ayres

April 8, 2017

Catherine Ayres

Poets who can say  much with few words are rare. Writing is hard; concision even harder. When these poets are funny, touching, sad, and poignant all in very few lines, the reader marvels. Catherine Ayres is such a poet.

I met Catherine Ayres through Jo Bell’s “52” poetry group three years ago. 52 was a private group of poets Jo organized from England, but which soon expanded around the globe.

Each week, Jo fed us a poetry prompt and some of us who were insane enough to take up her suggestion and write a poem each week for the entire year. Then we shared our poem with the group and received comments and criticism, parsing and praise.

Some of us stuck with 52 the entire year. Some became and remained friends on Facebook after the year ended. We  watched as poem after poem by our 52 mates got published, won awards, and became a part of collections.

One such poem was Catherine Ayres’s “Silence,” which like many of the poems in what became her first collection, Amazon, deals with illness and survival, the body and our perception of our own bodies head-on and with unflinching wisdom, humor, and pathos.

Catherine’s poems impressed me each week. There was something timeless and yet timely about her poems, with their heady mix of myth and “medicalia,” to coin a phrase, Her poems were the real deal. When I heard she was publishing her first book, I ordered it straightaway from the small UK-based publisher, Indigo Dreams. I was not disappointed.

Catherine Ayres is a teacher from Northumberland – Basil Bunting territory – her poem, “Silence,” won the Elbow Room Prize in 2016. Here is Catherine Ayres’s “Silence”:




The last man to touch my breast held a knife.


My lover said nothing;
his eyes told me to wear a vest


Sometimes I spread my hand over the scar
to feel its cage


How does a woman speak
with a closed mouth on her chest?


She unpicks in silence


until the rain comes
like burst stitches on the glass


– Catherine Ayres

Used by permission of the author. You can order Catherine Ayres’s Amazon (and you should) directly from the publisher



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