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époque press
pronounced: /epƏk/
definition: /time/era/period

Emma Lee

When a Small Forgery might be Justified

Mia's purse feels lighter. Coins are missing.

He tells her "You must have miscounted."

A friend says the amount owed wasn't paid.

Mia knows she gave it to him to pass on.

He says, "I forgot, I needed some money."


She changes the bill payments to her payday.

Unexpected bills have to wait until next month.

He lost his job after playing a practical joke.

Complains he can't find another. He says

she needs a second job: there's not enough money


for his beer. Mia hides notes, learns to hide

bruises. She needs his signature to close

the account. Is a small lie a justified price?

He signs without reading. His card fails, he rages

at her. "You miscounted me," she tells him.

Treading Water

I watch TV presenters hold their right fist

against their left shoulder then move their hand

towards their right shoulder in a small dipped arc.


I remember the summer I was seven, recuperating

from an operation that restored some hearing but

left me to figure out how to finish school with tinnitus

on my own, then write around negotiating a noisy

office: get up early and arrive tired or when worn

from navigating a workplace with no accommodation?


I know what the presenters are trying to do.

I wonder if there was a national mobility month,

would the presenters wheel themselves on set?


BSL meant two costs: tuition fees and time. Prohibitive.

Only around one percent learn. I taught colleagues/friends

to email/text and earnt publishing credits. But poetry sells

at events and how could I perform? It took eight years

from first publication to first reading. I asked 'How

did I sound?' The answer: 'OK', but that's not a sound


My question was precise, but misunderstood. The answers

a wash of frustration. The TV presenters' stiff, regimented,

hastily rehearsed presentation of 'morning' feels like a slap.


[There are 11 million deaf/hard of hearing people in UK, 151000 learn BSL, 1%. There is a National Mobility Awareness Month in the USA in May; there's no UK equivalent]

Did You Hear the One About...

the venue that booked a heavy metal band

the same night as a new spoken word evening?


the cellar bar that didn't think about people's chatter

from the toilet queue at the rear of the room?


the pub who didn't turn off the slot machines

for the poetry night and voices that didn't reach the mic?


the community centre who couldn't find

a working, booked-in-advance microphone?


the theatre who couldn't produce a portable PA

or turn off tannoy messages in a room of echoes?


the lack of mute button when people continue

conversations when a poet is reading?


how I set my alarm, not to wake me,

but to know how much I can hear today?

(Emotional) Blackmail

For once, the camera tracks the speaker,

not the listener so I can lip-read.

How important is the difference

between the subtitles and what's spoken?


One holds to account after the deed,

it forces someone to decide whether to own up

or pay to keep something buried,

blackmailer as bad as their target.


The other can't rely on past guilt,

but on the willingness of the victim

to help. The blackmailer the evil one.

How important is it to be accurate?


[Blackmail is the act of demanding payment/benefit for not revealing compromising information. Emotional blackmail uses someone's feelings to manipulate them to do something.]

Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and "Ghosts in the Desert" (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at


Of the motivation behind the poems, Emma states:


‘When a Small Forgery might be Justified, was inspired by the shortages that are caused by financial abuse. In the poem Mia’s partner helps himself, to support his drinking habit, to cash from her purse and spends money in their joint bank account without telling her, leaving her short.


‘Treading Water explores the shortages caused by disability: exhaustion from navigating a workplace without accommodations and watching two TV presenters awkwardly perform ‘Good Morning’ in BSL when around 151,000 of 11 million deaf/hard of hearing people in the UK learn BSL.


‘Did You hear the one about… is about the lack of forethought in accessibility planning on behalf of venues, performers and audiences.


‘(Emotional) Blackmail is where subtitles don’t reflect what’s actually being said; it might seem a small difference, but it shows those following the subtitles get short-changed.

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