Helen Mort

Goldilocks swipes left


The trees are stern with moonlight
and she is 4am-sneaking, breath imperceptible,
hacking the ivy-clad cottage.

Goldilocks is an emerald insomniac.
Goldilocks has at least 124 likes. She uses
a Valencia filter, makes the forest
architectural and smooth.

Now she is butter-soft over the threshold.
She thinks that leaving your door unlocked
is as good as leaving it ajar, the way she thinks
that woodland paths have always been there
that oaks have always been tall, that her hands
have always been so dexterous
that she will always be young
that watching is the same
as noticing.

Inside, there is always a large chair
does it matter if it’s pulled out or if she pulls it
does it matter if she notices the joinery
if her father was a carpenter
who worked in sawdust and silence
in a workshop above the moors

.                                         no matter she knows she can sit

Goldilocks swipes left at the knots and whorls
of the chair, on the cushion
still imprinted with bear.

Then there is porridge to eat and this is complicated
because Goldilocks posts beach selfies,
Goldilocks has been told she has a nice figure
that her body is a manmade vase.
Goldilocks is unsure about the globes of her calves
the shape of her biceps
the width of her hips

so when she tastes it is not a matter of hot
and cold but of sweetness and fear

.                                         no matter she knows she can eat

Goldilocks swipes left at porridge.
Goldilocks finds pictures of avocado toast,
immaculate rolled sushi, untouchable cakes
Goldilocks admires the texture of the oats,
the angle of the spoon.

Then there are the beds and beds
are complicated because Goldilocks
has drowned in beds she doesn’t remember swimming in,
Goldilocks has felt herself lapped by cold water,
she has looked for sheets to cover her

.                                         no matter she knows she can lie down

Goldlocks swipes left at beds.
But in the end, she huddles in the smallest.
Goldilocks is looking for herself
in every story. In some, she is shadowy,
an old woman who jumps from a window
and escapes, hobbling into darkness.
Goldilocks touches her face
imagining the leap. She wonders
when she became a girl,
how her body unravelled.

Goldilocks is grieving for the first time.
Goldilocks wonders when the bears are coming back
what she will do with their anger
how they will look at her
how they will sound

.                                         no matter she knows who she is

but the branches are tangled in the treetops
dancing fierce and abstract
the bears have been outside all night
watching without entering
their sadness is the daylight moon
and she will never capture it.


Helen Mort is a poet and novelist from Sheffield. She has published three chapbooks and two full-length collections, Division Street (2013, Chatto and Windus) and No Map Could Show Them (2016, Chatto and Windus). Her poetry has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Prize and Division Street won the Fenton Aldeburgh prize for best first collection. Her first novel Black Car Burning was published by Chatto in April 2019.