The First Year
by Vicky Morris

She found new homes for the contents of her two bin bags
and a box. Her blue rabbit took up residence on the single bed
by the window where she slept. The other left the room
feeling empty. She began keeping a log of her money,

counted pennies, shopped in indoor markets, made
big pots of veggie stew and froze it. She got a job
as a glass collector, went prickly-heat red, but said nothing
the times she got her bum squeezed. Any spare coins

filled phone boxes. She got nervous at night. People tried
to break in a lot. She lived above an off-license in a row
of shops. Once she watched a man walk past in the early hours
carrying a video recorder. A police van pulled up,

and the man spit in the face of a female officer. All three
wrested him into the van where a police dog barked.
They drove off, before the penny dropped. It was the first
of many times she’d see people act this way.

She tie-dyed everything, worn German Army boots,
drew black flicks on her eyelids, went into Manchester
when she could, getting lost down side streets,
discovering secondhand shops. She got her nose

pierced near Affleck’s Palace, felt she belonged there
in the Northern Quarter among the hippies, rockers, goths,
the punks, the grunge kids. Monday nights she’d go to the Ritz.
£1 in and a free pint. She avoided the mosh pit, but learned

to head bang, lost parts of herself on the dance floors
of the Banshee, 42nd Street, Band on the Wall. She smoked
spliffs, dropped tabs, stayed up late fixing the world, listening
to Syd Barret, The Chameleons, The Smiths, Ozric Tentacles.

She painted pictures exploring the inside of her head, welded
a metal sculpture of her ribs, the spine on wheels, filled it
with found bits, Ritzla packets, test tubes, dolls arms and legs,
quotes from the Doors of Perception and Brave New World,

about how we are island universes, and words are x-rays.
Once she rode a bike through a rich suburb at dawn, her skin
painted green, weaving in and out of people’s drives, across
lawns, laughing into the sky, her face a satellite dish

listening for answers. She always closed the curtains at night,
watched out for oddballs, walked as near as possible
to streetlights. She got restless at night. The fish and chips
weren’t the same here. She thought of the shoreline,

the seagulls nicking scraps, the tang of vinegar in salt air. Here,
the newsprint was blank, the fish smaller. In bed she imagined
her mum downstairs dragging a metal mop bucket along the floor,
across from her, her sister sound asleep.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at 17 in college, South Manchester (1991).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem that documents the first year I left home, discovering my independence and early influences at the age of 17. Being on my own so young wasn’t easy. I moved from a small town to the outskirts of a city which was at times alienating and isolating. The poem looks at these things from a distance in a third person narrative, and at leaving behind my childhood, and my sister (who got me through difficult times growing up in a volatile family situation). This key time in my life had a profound effect on the adult I became and my career path. For 19 years I’ve worked primarily as a creative facilitator and enabler of young people, supporting them with their development and paths into adulthood.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vicky Morris writes poetry and short stories and has been published in places like Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Matter, Pieces of Me, Slim Volume, and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She has two poems forthcoming in the anthology Moons on the Glass (Valley Press, 2017). Vicky won a Northern Writers Award in 2014 for fiction, and was shortlisted for the Jerwood/Arvon Scheme for poetry 2016/17. Visit her at