Mel White, The Serpent’s Defence


I was a clean sheet, once,
peeled from a ream of paper.
I could’ve been a textbook,
or a work of art,
but a child scribbled on this page;
trampled it with careless feet.

It’s the creases that catch me.
I rub out the pencil marks
of the drawing, start over again,
but wrinkles remain.

Crumple me into a ball,
or fold me along straight lines
into a paper plane,
and aim me at the twin towers
marked Landfill and Recycling.
The destination’s the same.

The Day You Killed The Servants

From the bedroom, I heard you curse;
that couch was always too long
for the wall – must’ve stubbed your toe
on a protruding leg.

‘Just one of the servants,’ you declared.
‘Sprawled on the floor,
little bugger.’ Pause.
‘I think I’ve killed him.’

You padded back to bed
in memory foam slippers
and my purple dressing gown.
‘Had to make the tea myself.’

And you did – every morning
in my Little Miss Sunshine mug
till it smashed on the tiled kitchen floor
that was always so cold underfoot.

Some days, after we’d overdosed
on historical dramas on Netflix,
you’d groan into the pillow:
‘Can’t one of the servants make the tea.’

Then we’d remember you’d killed the servants:
chased them to the stables,
hacked them to pieces – and we’d laugh.
And you’d make tea.

It’s not that I’m too high and mighty
to make my own tea, this morning.
I just wish there was someone here
who remembered the servants.

The Serpent’s Defence

I’m not the chicken or the egg,
I came later,
when chickens were kept in cages
and eggs were boxed,

manicured lawns wore signs
saying ‘Keep off the grass,’
trees grew in straight lines
and gates were locked.

I’m not a chicken –
I’d admit if I started it –
I’m a scapegoat, a snake.
And yes, your honour,

I gave her an apple,
if I could, I’d have given more:
the taste of wild garlic, or a ladder
to climb over his garden wall.

Mel White is a Clare-based poet. In 2017 she won the Éigse Michael Hartnett Poetry Slam, was shortlisted for Listowel Writers Week poetry competition, and was a guest reader at Lunchtime Poetry at the Hunt Museum in Limerick, and at K-Fest in Killorglin. In 2016 she won the Cúirt Literary Festival Poetry slam and placed second in The Tower Poetry Slam. As well as poetry she has written several plays and is working on a novel.

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