Sarah Wedderburn – We have cast ourselves out

We have cast ourselves out

after Masaccio

Over the door floats an angel,
his blackened sword raised
in case we change our minds.
Adam covers his face, I my nudity.

We are fresco. Adam says
art brought us to life. He says
we are naturalistic, with rounded bellies,
rendered in chiaroscuro—almost the first.
We were painted fast, on plaster.
We were painted on separate days.
Adam was fine with Paradise.
I’d had enough.

That is one serious angel.
Going back is not an option.
So we rush through the creamy portal
into the world beyond the painting’s edge.
We are the departure of the symbolic,
Adam says. We are real.
We are different.

He was happy to stay. I never thought
it was up to much, Eden. I felt patronised—
you know? God just sent rules
from on high. He was remote,
he had no mandate.

We are chalky white. My face is my shock.
We lacked for little but—it’s hard
to explain—it wasn’t ours.
That serpent insisted we could
take back control. I wanted
that. Now, I am sore afraid.

We have cast ourselves out.
We are the departure of the symbolic.
Look at us—we are bombed by shame.
Adam and I are fresco.
We were painted on separate days.

Sarah Wedderburn – Seeing Madam Butterfly

Seeing Madame Butterfly

For God’s sake, this is wrong. She’s fifteen, caught in a follow spot
of voyeuristic pity. Houselights barely dimmed, we’re ogling.
Where’s her mother when the ship of love glides in, gross
with steam and angles? Men in suits collude. The girl just…sings.
Hell, she’s fallen for him: Christian, kind, unthinking. Bastard.
We understand the score but, swooned in music, all we do is snivel.
Cho-Cho-San, you know the delicate placing of a cup, not America!
I want to shout my warnings across custom, time. At the interval,
staggering out for air in London’s fetid night, I hear a man roar
at a woman’s sobs, fear I’ve learned little from my own fool’s games.
That’s when I’m sure I see her. Knelt on the stage door step, bent
over brush and paper, she’s writing with her deft calligrapher’s hand
in fast, light flashes, undoing her story like a star’s collapse till, quick
as a kingfisher, her blue kimono flickers out of sight. Back on stage,
here’s Pinkerton again, his wife, their offer. In some other universe—
in us, the orchestra, the dumbstruck cast—the music soars as Butterfly
stands up. Her eyes blaze refusal. While the drab-clothed couple stutter
their remorse, she turns and clasps her little boy. She will not let him go.


Sarah Wedderburn lives and writes in Kent.


Sarah Wedderburn – Pavement café

Pavement café

Not long ago I drank coffee to winter’s plain speaking, my days
dullish but simple, till that rough brown sameness
burst into blossom froth and the old magic spring came back,
a killer. How can the world take so much whoosh?

This green won’t stop. After her 6am class that banker girl
had a pre-office blow-dry, protein smoothie in hand, schedule
ticking. By 8.15, in McQueen, and Charlotte Olympia
heels, she was dealing. I won’t go on. It’s crazy,

as if cuckoos and cow parsley were not enough. And here is
Liverpool Street on a warm May evening. Is that champagne,
on the brink of Brexit? I feel old. Why do madmen want
to be presidents? And what will we do with the children,
with all those flotsam children?

Sarah Wedderburn – A word on killing

A word on killing



I’ll only say this once. Then I’m going back to writing about home,

journeys, everyday events and minor breakages—even they send

fragments far and wide.


After the murder of my father, who was stationed overseas, I couldn’t

bear that when they found the man who did it—possibly a dad—they

shot him in his bed.


My father was a soldier. This was peacetime. He’d been to the bank, was in

a Morris Minor, ferrying money to his troops. The killer was a criminal,

after easy cash.


When losing was so sharp, I couldn’t see how one more death made sense.

I was spirited at seven, fierce. Wanted justice. But that second bullet was

the first again. Despair.


Those two deaths were not political, defensive, personal or spat out

in the heat of war. They revealed to me, too young, that men—grown men—

are ruled by drives


so primitive they make a child look old. My story’s small. But scale it up

from households to whole peoples and you start to see. What I didn’t know,

while messing up


in later life, was how, through killings, roots get twisted, memories

and moods distorted, needs, compulsions, fears repeated, like they say,

down the generations.


Growing up, I couldn’t see a fictive arrow in a back, a sailor walk the plank

in black and white, spiralling Spitfires, or anything with guns. Still can’t.

I guess it was a sign.


We’re all friends here. We all agree. But what to do? The day my father

died I made a cake. Wonky, sunken in the middle. With a candle.

One small light to shine.


Sarah Wedderburn’s poems have appeared in Poems in Which and The Oxford Magazine. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2013, and in 2011 was a finalist in the Third Annual Poetry Contest run by Narrative Magazine, the online American literary journal. She lives in East Kent.