my brilliant boyfriend told me

you’re not very intelligent, you only got good grades
because you’re a conformist that’s the text
we had to learn, boys are vowels
girls are consonants, boundaries,
sheepdogs, only there to hold
the vowels together, a civilising influence
hard workers, valiant effort
neatly zipped pencil case
pretty pens filed in alphabetical order
hair tied neatly back
a discreet pair of stud earrings
must be removed for Games
even when we get an A
we have failed, my supposedly brilliant boyfriend
got a U, my pencil case
was not neatly zipped, it was bulging
and stained, my desk was not a girl’s desk
but a tottering anthill of papers
a stalagmite, something
wasps had chewed
spat out, I was not a hard worker
essays, a hurried note to the milkman
the note wasn’t the point
I wanted the milk, something
creamy and sweet
from a warm tit, Mum
said I taught myself to read
when I was three, from the TV
but it was the letters, they were
the teacher, floated off the page,
swarmed up in a mist, like Helen of Troy
or Dracula, formed themselves
into a human shape, like a man
covered with bees, he stretched out
his gauntleted hand, drew me in
but I was unprotected, had
no gauze headdress, the bees’
feet tickled my face


Melanie Branton is a spoken word artist, education worker and recovering anorexic. Her published collections are Can You See Where I’m Coming From? (Burning Eye, 2018) and My Cloth-Eared Heart (Oversteps, 2017). Twitter: @sapiencedowne   Facebook: Melanie Branton