Born in Portsmouth, Michelle has moved between the UK and Canada several times and has been based in Manchester since 1999. She has taught gymnastics, sold carpets and comics, cleared cheques, answered phones, typed, filed and cleaned. She has worked as a freelance writer and workshop facilitator since 2004.
Following a degree in drama at the University of Alberta, Michelle has performed extensively around the UK, won slams (including the North West Slam in 2005), had poems and short stories anthologised and recorded, and published a book of poetry with Crocus Books in 2006. She writes poetry, short stories and articles, and is currently working on her first short story collection for Comma Press, due for publication in 2012.
a tiny minute more
the windows have borne too many knife-sharp winters
but well-cared for
they slide down to half-mast
open a space
for kisses to fly from hands
and long looks
to wind through the afternoon air
she stands at the open window
hat on side of head
held on with pins
and in that moment
before the miles open up
between train and town
she extends herself
that your gaze might hold her
for just a tiny minute more
My parents moved around a lot when I was young, so I've shared a lot of goodbyes with people and places – climbed into trains, cars and planes and watched the familiar shrink with distance. Saying goodbye becomes a well-practiced skill after a while – a lesson in letting go at exactly the right moment.
I remember close-up details of the goodbyes – the fragments and individual features. Those few moments before the leaving, when I've stood with both feet in the present, become like photographs - sharp and specific in telling the details of half a second in time.
I think this urge to move was passed down through my parents to me from my grandmother and her itchy feet (and those in generations before her). She kept moving between Scotland, England, Italy and Canada until she was in her nineties, and in her younger years she tells me she was known for her style and the hats she had balanced ‘at a rakish angle' atop/beside her head. The woman in this poem is not meant to necessarily be my grandma, but she's definitely got that sense of someone who has travelled and left enough times to know how to do it in a way that suits her.
A Tiny Minute More is exactly the length of time that you've got before the train pulls you from leaving and into going.
I've now lived continuously in Manchester longer than any other place. My arrival here was unplanned, but each of the many times I've temporarily gone away I've returned with the sense that I'm coming home. That's a strange feeling for someone who's never sure how to answer when I'm asked, ‘Where are you from?'
This Poem Is Sponsored By… (Corporate Watch, 2007) – poetry in anthology
Forklift Trucks: a brief guide in Bitch Lit (Crocus Books, 2006) - prose
Knee High Affairs (Crocus Books, 2006) – solo collection of poetry
Prairie Dyke in City Secrets (Crocus Books, 2002) – prose
Also a number of articles published in magazines around the UK.
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