ellen waters"WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING"

I once knew a man to whom speech

was a practice of fine-toothed impersonation,

a dance of unsung spaces between

flickering tongue and the hiss of

twisting fingertips. I once knew a man

whose words bled from cracked lips,

poured pestilence into the ear,

crushed bruised head to heel. I once knew

sharp eyes and the painted sting of a smile

but for all his venom, I never once saw him

bite; and I wondered if he was yet another

who had mistaken poison for protection.

Perhaps he was one of those men

who shed their skin

and turn to ash when no one is looking.

Ellen Waters is a Manchester-born student studying English at the University of York. She was a winner of the Anna C. Price Poetry Prize and has been published in The JFA Human Rights Journal, SINK Magazine: Ramble and Viral Verses: Art in Exceptional Times. She enjoys reading and drama, and plays the violin.