3 Ascending Poems by Ceri Savage

He’s not really my uncle.
Mum’s sister’s husband’s brother,
every five Christmases,
every other summer
kind of uncle.
But I sent him a card when his wife died.
Asked Mum if it was weird
to send one online.
She said fine
but no bubble writing,
no sympathies, no religion.

I chose to upload my own photo –
Googled calm + sea.
Found a picture of a beach
in Bali
where I’d never been.
Googled forest + beautiful.
Trees felt more universal.
I chose one of woodland moss
lit by dusty pillars of light.
Cost me £4.25
to tell him I’m sorry
that his wife died.
Didn’t actually say that,
of course, in fact,
I didn’t mention her name at all.

I wanted to write:
I’m sorry Agatha died.
She was always so lovely to me.
She had a soft, hazy voice
and a kind face.
I’ve always heard your names together
like a single name –
To say only yours will be strange.

But I asked Mum what to say
She said, thinking of you,
and then my name.
So that’s what I did.
Then changed the font
to freestyle script.
It’s just something you do,
isn’t it?
Send a card to a relative
of a photo you didn’t take,
of a place you never stayed,
to say you’re sorry that his wife died
without mentioning her name.

Pub Lunch with the Boomers.
We scuff muddy soles on muddier bristles,
casual as stepping into a kitchen from a
garden, pulled into log-fire balminess by
leashed collies. Everyone here wears wellies

and polos beneath up-collared rugby shirts –
crossed oars or a top-hat-donning pheasant on
their breast. Tea first, we agree, settling
around a stout-legged table; a dog’s stomach

undulates on my instep – nonchalant, fatigued.
The radio plays you give me reason to live,
you can leave your hat on,
and Mum asks Dad
if he remembers the Tom Jones tribute at

Jackie’s wedding? My uncle takes a beat
before well, it’s not unusual, as Dad
wordlessly pours the last of his milk into my
cup; he knows I like to swill the tea dregs.

Orders in my phone notes hold plenty of edits
– fat not skinny chips, firm not mushy peas.
What ales are on tap? My aunt panics – ask me
last, ask me last
– frantic eyes scan the menu,

flung down; she gets the cod and a lager
shandy like always. Goodbyes occur between
car boots, dogs fogging the glass – swap
spouses, kiss, the men handshake, then the

sisters hug; oh dear, they all need to move to
the sea together, don’t they? Such fondness. I
can’t imagine it – kissing my sister’s boyfriend
in forty years. Parallel lives in a wicker

basket, gapped, but woven amply to collect
keepsakes, like storm-beaten tent pegs,
unspoken estranged names, cuddles of new-
born nieces, nephews, five or six puppies; an

entire Welsh childhood even – forbidden
climbs over the school fence, white-chocolate
stains on Sunday dresses; landline chatter
about sheds and subtle patio changes over

a plate of custard creams. A quiet closeness,
I notice, as they part ways in this Cotswold-
stoned parking lot, dispersing to their
respective car doors in a poised quadrangle.

When I first met her, she had only one toothbrush
in her bathroom cupboard; it was her own and it was green.
The dark green of a tree. Not the bright of a spring leaf
but the self-assured shade of an evergreen.

In time, she asked me for my favourite colour.
I said blue. Blue like my brother’s eyes
and the painted houses of a small-town coastline,
and the toothbrush she bought me the next day.

In the early hours, she ripped its package with a smile.
A beautiful gift, I used it, spat out the residue and it felt
like a fresh start, a peppermint-fresh start,
deep cleaned and sparkling white.

The next day, she left early for work
and I left a note on her microwave.
I watched blue rest on green,
on the rim of an old mug with her name on it.
Like sea and forest,
grass and sky,
a park on a summer’s day,
an island and an ocean.

Within a few months, the bristles began to bend,
the blue began to fade.
One day, I opened the cupboard
to find a third toothbrush.
It was pink.
Brazenly pink.
Pink piercing our turquoise palette.
Pink like a piece of plastic in a park.
A pretty, preppy, perky, pushy, pepto-bismol pink.


I slammed the little door to see my own refection.
After all, we never agreed to limit ourselves to each other.
I wonder if she’d asked for her favourite colour,
if she’d smiled as she ripped open the package,
if pink had watched pink rest on green,
on the rim of an old mug with her name on it.
Like a thorned rose
or a mint and rhubarb sweet.
I’d count toothbrushes when I couldn’t sleep.
1-2-3, 1-2-3.

In a few weeks, the pink toothbrush was gone,
but I’d withdrawn with the sea tide of my blue.
She’d climbed out of reach to the tree canopy of her green.
One morning, I chose to leave,
walked away from her and down the street –
my mood blue,
my heart green,
and a rising flush of sadness, pink,
and colouring my cheeks.

Ceri Savage is a British, Berlin-based writer with an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Exeter. Her writing is published in the literary journals The FU Review and Drawn to the Light Press as well as the short story collection A Flash of Silver-Green: Stories of The Nature of Cities. Ceri is the founder of Savage Edits, an editing business that provides self-publishing services to indie authors: savageedits.com. Follow Ceri @cerisavagewrite(s).