‘Life Cycle of a Rocket’ by Freya Jackson

Life Cycle of a Rocket


i)    Before I was an illness, my sister

       Taught me how to play red: the word itself a mistranslation.

       I learnt the way she did, a fist of a

       Phrase and I was cored, my knees skinless where I fell,

       My throat a grate. She did not touch me (this is the second rule),

       Not even to wipe the mud-stench from my mouth.


ii)   you didn’t have to come all this

      way she says corkscrew split

      of her spine the root of a tree it

      wriggles as she walked and

       she swelled round it amorphous

       globs sweating out from the

       agonic break in the centre of her

       what no hello I say and she laughs

       without her eyes while she doesn’t

       groan, the way some women have

       of taking pain and tempering it

       against their edges you can feel it

       when they walk


iii)  In our house everything was silent: the television set with

       Colour-switch subtitles and a gym-clean gleam, the clocks

       Held their breath and forgot to tick, even the mould spread

       Quietly – out of respect for my mother, who passed

       Her days waiting for the phone to ring. My sister inherited my

       Mother’s house the same way she inherited her eyes, and the

       Hysteric hiccup of her lungs – primogeniture. There are

       Some things that are given by right (this is the third rule).


iv)  she lives in the middle of a nowhere

       of her own making everything neat

       but her heart messy yawling thing

       I could hear it from outside she

       makes tea without speaking and I

       do not speak yet the kettle clicks

       and she does not rush to it but waits

       straightens the edges of the kitchen

       how is Abigail have you been back

       in contact with her

       or are you fighting still I say and

       kill her without a touch (this is the

       second rule) and she her corpse

       and I sit for a moment and drink

       our tea twist our mouths heavy

       and inconsequential as the wind

       battering the walls in an angry

       scream womentalk it warms

       my bones hot enough they might

       rise to the air like a downpour

       in reverse bodiless my sister laughs

       with just the sound it fills this

       house that was not built for music

       and it is so lovely I divest myself of

       everything but my hands and we sit

       like that all night ourselves and our



v)   All the women in our family die by way of a faulty valve at the age

       Of forty-eight. On her last visit my aunt shucked her teeth and said

       With an insouciant shrug those things will kill you, you know

       She knew, still there are some things you must repeat (this is the

       First rule), which is to say

       The wound was not in my heart. The wound was geography, history:

       Elsewhere – if it was a place then it was my sister,

       While I was hers.


vi)  until next time my sister says her

       young/old face flickering like a

       dying bulb she is almost forty-

       nine the air bubbles in her throat

       make a clattering noise as she

       licks her lips it was nice to see

       you I say and it is true (this is

       the last rule) 



Freya Jackson is from Leeds. She has previously been published in Writing Maps, Matrix Magazine, Hapex and the Scarlet Leaf Review. She won the ‘Turing’s World’ short story award (England) in 2013, was a finalist for the 2015 Princemere Poetry Prize and was Highly Commended for the Binnacle Ultra Short Competition 2016.



Image credit: Atomische * Tom Giebel

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