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Tenement Press is an occasional publisher of esoteric,
accidental, angular, & interdisciplinary literatures.

My head is my only house unless it rains

Don Glen Vliet

Were a wind to arise
I could put up a sail
Were there no sailI’d make one of canvas and sticks

Bertolt Brecht, ‘Motto’
(Bucknow Elegies)

Rehearsal      /     22. Edwina Attlee    /    ‘I let the year slip through my hands’
An excerpt from a book called a great shaking.

you grew into a child
running until a flag
or fig

I had thought nursery was a place from history
wolves outside the window
frost on top of the yellowheads in layers

I have seen the records
I know the children who came to the Macmillan sisters’ crèche
in Deptford in 1914 got in and found sweet white smocks sun-
light in the room in the morning instead of being tied to the
kitchen table with a bit of rope

but it didn’t take
you’re meant to go home at once and begin the work of raising
private individuals

We leave & the baby begins to shrink
yellow as a dial

on certain days
it’s impossible
feeling like an unsent letter
natality carved into stone
and a plain door
with a hammer
you want to leave it anywhere
and can’t put it down

On Wednesdays
Mother Sugar lets the boy play beyond her door
I’m arranging daffodils
they don’t cost much
she asks about the index
they pack him differently
at the nursery
his hair his hands
am I letting them snuff it out
the little yellow flame

on Thursdays the world is blue in pitches
and the rain drives into the side of the bus like a dam
later you’ll walk out to find some sky
and maybe a bird

There is sun in the early hours
when your task is to keep a child alive
I leave my house to
breastfeed by the kettle in the church hall
steam and a paper plate of custard creams
try it try it again
lives can be kept safe I think
I think lives can be safer

I dream of a white room
a panel of experts
and the affordable smoothed down day
of a night spent asleep

Boys striding out to the allotments
folk dancing under the trees
free-of-charge additions to the luncheons
a night nursery
children cooking the supper
birds roaming free

Impington Village College was built between 1938-40 and was
designed by Maxwell Fry and Walter Gropius. It is said to have
been a manifesto for congruity between form and social intention.

Round the corner a mural is painted
stand side by side or face in opposite directions



Edwina Attlee 
is the author of two pamphlets, Roasting Baby (if a leaf falls press, 2016) and the cream (Clinic, 2016). a great shaking, Attlee’s debut collection, is the twelfth title in Tenement’s ‘Yellowjacket’ series. She teaches history to students of architecture in London. 
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