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House of Choices: collected poems



A collection of free verse, both previously unpublished and published, exploring personal and universal themes.


House of Choices is a collection of free verse that blends the universal and personal, the private and public, in an array of raw, lyrical poetry.

Featuring both previously published and unpublished material and available in ebook formats, or a slim 93 page paperback chapbook edition.

Additional information

Weight 0.2 kg

Anna Reith


ebook, paperback

Read a sample

long one o’clock on the garden furniture

the party lights glittered in dimness.
you wore old brown leather
smelling of cider
but your breath reeked of whisky.

the bottle lay half-empty in your pocket,
its fullness discharged in my beer
both libation and interest
in an otherwise tiresome affair.

we spoke in the branches, hidden by leaves,
until it was way past midnight
and we let the candles glitter
in their cages of broken
party light glass.

there were three hundred
long meaningful looks
that evening, that particular
night full of arson and
hot dogs and cheese straws.
there was
your old jacket and your old eyes
and dripping wax and Jodie burning
herself for fun.
I recall you said she was fucked up.
it lasted three hundred years
and no one knew.

once it turned late, your resistance gone,
you laid your head on my breast and
slurred your words and I
stroked your hair
while the time passed.

and the candles just went on
burning down.

Dark Noon at Gwithian

rocks sit black and hunched
their faces turned
to an unruly sea,

creased as if blinking with disappointed eyes.

their dark brows furrowed
at a distant horizon
and a storm that may never come,

they wait,
gazing into the blackened light,

and the sound of silence
stuns with the suddenness
of a broken clock,
a door slammed
or a word unspoken.

the swell of the waves
and the gulls halt their screaming.
clouds draw closer
as if afraid,
needing each other’s nearness,
and everything seems to
clench its breath.

for just a moment,
for just one beat

of a heart that holds all

all that exists is waiting.

rain begins to pat
at the smooth-skinned rocks
and, like a veil,
it shivers across the tide.


The rough balsam of summer heat,
Shot through with grit,
Leaves slick and sweaty all it touches.
A warm, greasy clamminess
That speaks of stagnant ponds
And rope-shorn tyre swings;
Of mud-pitted puddles
Oily with their fat, ridged edges
Crusting to seething craters
Pinched in by slugs of dark earth.
Even the air is thickened,
Dripping with the taste of this
Stained and tainted time,
And it is all old, yellow lace
And thin, worn gingham,
And dusty, ripped denim
That we shed by the water.
It is hot and rank as sweat
On wet skin,
And the heavy green brocade of duckweed
Bobs ominously close
To unwary limbs.
Fingers trail, viridian to pitch,
Forging runnels in the slime.
No respite, no forgiving;
Everything seeps together,
Heat-fused, baked and boiled,
Bubbling together in this fetid, potent cauldron.
Iridescent dragons flicker between the midges
And we melt into the parched, sticky dirt.

The Window Seat

Next to the side door,
Which leads into the garden
—a grand word for a narrow track
beaten through the grass and cow parsley—
There is a window.
It is wide, deep,
Wrought with Georgian proportions. Its shutters, paint-stuck and folded,
Reach the ceiling
And, in the mornings,
Its panes turn to wetted gold.

The seat was there when we moved in.
It fills the whole of the space,
Its heavy, hinged lid
Trapping the musty smells
Of long-gone years
And other people’s linens.
You joked we could stash bodies in there,
And no-one would ever know.

As far as I’m aware,
We have not done so yet.

The cushions are worn, thinned
Since the last of their many reupholsterings.
That most recent reconstruction
Must have been decades ago.
The fabric is threadbare,
Its colour dimmed from the original light blue,
Greyed like a washed-out summer sky.
Sprigs of flowers dot that paled ground
In pleasing tones of yellowish cream.
If, once, they were brilliant white,
Then their decay has not been obscene.

When we came here,
Just these few short weeks ago,
We said we must fix things;
Brighten up the paintwork
And recover the window seat.
You set two cushions on it from your mother’s house,
Violent tones of burnt orange
And ruddy pink
With kantha stitches
Running in livid layers across their faces.
You said it was a start
But they clashed horribly, and I laughed.
You’ve worked hard this month
And for that I have to thank you.

As my damp, tired feet
Bear me in now,
First crop from this new garden
Cradled in the rubber trug I carry,
I see you.
You sit upon the window seat,
One leg up, your brown foot bare
And your ankle half-bent.
Your head is tucked to your chest, your back
Pressed to the edge of those paint-choked shutters
That we don’t even know will open,
And your eyes are closed.
I can’t tell if you’re sleeping
Or just resting
And it seems that so much about you
Is yet unknown.
Your clothes are grubby, smeared with paint,
Not to mention the traces of
Plaster dust that have settled in your hair.

You have never looked better
And, I suppose, as the dusk begins to cleave
To the windowpane,
There is no shame
In a thing which is worn out
Through love.

London Boy

In the small hours of a neon-lit night,
The hotel seems never more distant.
It’s even possible
That I’ve misplaced
Covent Garden again.

It doesn’t matter, though.
We stumble
And giggle
And you don’t care that you’re so far
From home.

It’s a long damn way
Back past Stockwell
In that direction
I think.

But, for now,
These few short days
With you,
Stretch long into time
And lie in polished crystals
Of amber.

It doesn’t really matter
Where we’re going.

We walk white stone miles
Find blood drops on the pavement
And, being young and immortal,
Discuss their gravitational direction
Before considering
We ought to get
The fuck out of here fast.

Behind Jo-Jo’s
You let overheated trannies
On fag breaks chat you up
And one beautiful girl
When she learns I’m not a man.

You think, when you sober a bit,
That might have offended me
But I point out how dark it was
And smile.
I like how we are both
So blissfully untrammelled by gender.

Vauxhall at three a.m.
Should not be romantic,
But is rather.
We watch unsavoury things
Bob on the black river
And you voice a craving for kadhi
We could not possibly get
Anywhere at this time in the morning.

We are drunk, I declare,
As if that explains it all.
You say that worse things happen at sea
And for some reason
I laugh until tears streak my face.

You light up,
And that dirty, gritty bridge
Has its least pleasant aromas
Masked by the comforting burn
Of ash.

We make it back
To yours,
And it’s funny how
The sound of sirens
Seems loudest before
The dawn properly comes.

We sleep well past
When we should.
Your brother’s knocking on the door,
You won’t dare shave
For fear of cutting off your nose,
Peering out at me from within the fringes
Of your dark, shrivelled eyes.

I scramble eggs
On your chipped hob,
He makes tea when you let him in,
And we have this odd
Domestic breakfast,
Listening to the overground trains
Roar-rattle by,
Before I go,
Collect my luggage
And leave you, yet again.


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