Cath Walsh

Cath Walsh grew up in Washington, D.C. and London and read English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. After spells in London and Paris, she now lives and works in Oxford.




Planet! Kids!


If you want to save the planet,
don’t have children!
It’s okay. I wouldn’t anyway and I
wash my recycling carefully,
I mean the tins, not the paper,
and I try
to keep in straight lines when I walk
in the street, although,
you know, a lot of them don’t,
a lot of them stop in doorways
and rotate, big groups, maybe four, maybe more
and I think, how can they stand it,
they let him do that and now they’re
them and I see fleas in the fur of rats
and noise and litter
and ants
until— No, stop.


Once I lived with a girl
and she wore para boots to the corner shop.
She walked back swigging a Coke
with the laces undone—
I liked her stride.
She later had two kids
but that’s not the same thing
or nearly not.




Resolution and Independence (after Wordsworth’s The Leech-Gatherer)


It’s pretty hard for a girl to keep her
resolution and independence after the fact.
In the best of circumstances
I have felt a mawkish,
faltering hand: stealth in the after-glow.


All the money shudders and rattles
as the balance alters, undoing
months of counting,
measuring the weight of each penny,
placing it carefully down.
If this is true at the best of times,
imagine then when the body betrays,
with all those bits of gore just waiting
to surprise the new explorer.
Displayed not just in safety,
held within the certain hands of night,
but inside out, exposed to the gathered crowd,
the group of Sikh med students,
the morose family,
the shrieking local woman,
and lastly, her with
a red plastic flower in her hair.
She’s over 40!
Her face is sallow, her tablemates dowdy,
the contrast sorrowful, mortal, brave.


After beauty is spent,
after communion, companionship and fellowship are gone,
the coins packed tight in an unassailable roll,
she is left whole and holy,
her resolution and independence
a red poppy, a beacon
to guide me in, to remind me
the wound will heal.
Against received wisdom,
women have time on their side
and will outlive the reckless
split of youth.






Mundane, yes,
but at least you’re going somewhere.
The slippery slap of words gone past you
line up: who asked you? I wanted
a poem about my mother—perhaps
or the cat, both dead but
Maybe that’s too much. Trains
hold you suspended
then shudder you against the buffer;
choosing one, the others are left empty.



Old friend


Your lips shut tight,
a single signal,
an ending.
I saw the years we’d spent
in each other’s flats
close like a crimson flytrap.
I felt myself rise,
walk away,
holding that corrupt core
of mistrust to my chest
like a jewel
to warm me in the
desolate steppes of
middle years.






Her name was Rhona, she wore
a belly-dancer’s top
with gold pendants on
that jingled. If I’d worn that
I’d be a cat with a bell.
She had feline eyes too,
and a blinking, sexy, credulous world-wonder
that lit up the men
to talk louder,
their stride expanding, their sense of being
She’d studied Ecology
and was getting a coach back to Brighton
the same night.
How cosmic that maths guys
are also good at music!
And shamans have healing visions!
And women channel the earth!
Eventually she’ll get unstar-struck,
end up – fertile, yeah, like the plains –
but I’m just bitter, maybe.
After all, the men weren’t inspired by
me that night
or any other, any more,
and I wear the relief
like a veil.


My compass points
North where it’s cold
and old and I no longer
hold fast to their faces
in rows, pinning me left
or right in ways I don’t
know how to fight
head-on, only to escape
to where they are not— which is where
these days? I’m not at school any more
with its corridors of cool mushroom
and magenta like a lunatic asylum,
where we’d huddle next to the old,
thick radiators between classes
and talk sensibly about
The time moved more slowly
but I liked it, the halls
of sun-warm parquet
and jewelled dust motes.