Self-portrait as a case of stick insects (Phasmatodea)

Linda France


As long as I stay invisible, I am everything

you don’t know.  A casual glance won’t unpick


my lock – this glass case of bramble stalks,

prickly, soaked.  I’m an illusionist, arrow


and cross-bow, plant or insect, a specialist

at playing dead.  Woody in winter, independent,


I strew my fatherless eggs disguised as seeds

on the leaves beneath me.  All my girls


are silk, small preparatory sketches.  Blind

to night and day, they twitch and skitter


slowly, practise disappearing.  I’ve lost

a leg, as if I were growing into my own


brittle pretence.  The longer you look,

the more you’ll see – this whole case transparent,


crawling with what you’re certain can’t be phantoms.


Linda France lives in rural Northumberland, UK. Her eighth collection, Reading the Flowers, arising from a tour of some of the world’s Botanic Gardens, is due from Arc in Spring 2016.  She has also just completed a non-fiction book of her travels called Botanical Road. Linda is currently Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Leeds.

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