In addition to features, short stories and novels, Josa Keyes has always written poems. In 2016, she began to write poetry often – triolets, villanelles, free verse and sonnets – and perform it at the Book Club, the Society Club and elsewhere in London. Poems were accepted for publication in the Telegraph and the Amorist. Without time to write full-length novels, poetry has allowed her to say things about stuff that didn’t fit into any other format.

Here are some poems that do not appear in the collection as they are from longer ago.


I lay kisses on my daughter’s skin
It is how I worship her
How I love her with pangs of love
That sweep through me and make me shiver

She doesn’t know
The escalator groans like glaciers
She doesn’t know that my cheek
No longer gets the worship
That’s no big deal for her

My mother’s gone
My ambiguous mother with her partial love
Who shrugged me off when little and too loving
Who died and left me weeping
Whose huge arm like a whale’s fin
Hung heavy round my shoulder
As she lay dying


Last night as I slept
My mind threw up the dancing shapes
Of children
I knew them
Insubstantial though they were
To be my ex nephews and nieces

They had no particular form
They were made of love
And leaves blew through them

I knew who they were
Because my heart hurt
With loss.
I loved those dancing children

I knew they’d gone
In fact they’ve just grown
Not a child amongst them any more
Gone too from me
Gone with the family
From which I fled
Into freefall


Being – Synaptic sparks jump
From the ill-disciplined fire
That is my mind.
Easily stamped
Time – can’t buy it,
End it.
Can spend it
Kill it
Keep it
Waste it.
The days peel away like burnt skin.
I am raw with longing.
Space – cold, final.

Existence – sub-atomic-particles in space
Trompe l’oeil at best
Poke a finger through that terrible void.
Objects and their properties.
Cause and effect – reap what you sow – or not.
That’s what heaven’s for, or hell
Helps the poor saps bear it.
Possibility – now this one’s truly infinite
Like stupidity.

Ontology – Being, becoming, existence or reality.
Red, white, blue. Human.
Not. Dry, wet, green.
Alive. Not.
Truth, lies and parsimony.
Categorise to make safe what we perceive.
Truth as dangerous as IEDs.
Fundamental structure –
Tough wraith trapped in earth’s crust made flesh.
Duality wrapped in materialism.
Confused? Moi?

Nature – So various, vile and sublime.
Ground less quaking here.
Rot and sex and birth.
New lambs.
But oh that faint foul whiff of death;
An airy thread
Through warm spring afternoons.
Dynamic and its opposite.
Only maggots move
In the still socket of a once eye.

Empiricism – Did you do it? Do you feel it? Can you know it?
Pin down my virtual arms with your ghostly palms.
What idea can you form of me without empirical experience
Skin to skin?
Given your predilections, a posteriori makes me laugh.
Damn you for making me feel.
Cannot bear to dream of your philosophy.