Issue Seven:
She Looks (A Sestina)

By Nicki Hastie

She has looked at them from both sides now, in all their colours,

as Joni Mitchell advised. First time in a plane she marvelled at clouds

unknown before, sparkling in unhindered sunlight, believing a refresh

could reset each day. A myriad of paints on her palette offering a scent

of essential oils to enliven all detail and also set a clean slate. A new regard

she had for life itself, up here, eager to sign her canvas with a flourish.


Back in her flat she notices only a lack of perspective; nothing can flourish.

Empty, endless days where drab drizzle infects her walls and all colours

lie muted and lifeless. Down here is like sinking deeper into a hole, no regard

for air or motion. Everything cools with a gathering grey net of clouds

so that she is trapped, almost buried, no stimulus except the bitter scent

of her sweat. Where is her new start now? Where is the button marked refresh?


Travelling takes effort. Time zones make her cry. Only a beer refreshes

her step. The plane lands safely, but she always crashes, unable to flourish

for several hours after planning for the unfamiliar. Warm tarmac is a scent

rarely encountered, restricted to a mythical season in which she remembers colours

other than earth and her skin uncovered, the sun again, clear sky, fluffy clouds.

All of this is available if she goes far enough. If she holds herself in high regard.


On the ground she forgets to look up. Too many obstacles, messages to disregard,

anchoring her in an uneasy place. She is a browser seeking constant refresh,

her focus continually derailed. She tells colleagues there is no time to look at clouds,

and they laugh, but she is serious about watching where she treads. What flourishes

is anxiety. Irritation settles in her stomach, tightness at her chest. What is colourful

is only her language, voicing obscenities to suppress the fear. She knows its scent.


She craves fresher air to pacify the aches of soaring pressure. Even scented

candles are now labelled toxic, a risk to life, and her footprint regarded

a planet-killer when she chooses to fly. What point is there, drained of colour,

drained of joy? A change of scenery, perhaps the night sky, could be refreshing

right now. She will look at stars instead. Their light, continuing to flourish

at distance, though already dead, shows a commitment to life not so fleeting as clouds.


She has looked at them from both sides now – all aspects of clouds,

as Joni Mitchell advised. And what does she know? Not much, except the scent

of a rose is a rose is a rose. Or was, until genetically-modified crops began to flourish

and honey bees disappeared in droves. Is there anything she can rely on, regard

to be precious? Her resilience has packed up. Resources are scarce, can’t be refreshed.

Looking up, clouds come low, blocking out stars; she is dazzled by the deficit of colours.


Clouds get in the way of who she is, and what she regards.

The scent she knows best is currently the least refreshing.

Still she looks for the flourish of air which may be a return to colour.


About the Contributor

Nicki Hastie‘s poetry has been published in The Soundswrite anthology of contemporary poetry 201114 MagazineWomb and Chroma. Other writings have appeared in critical anthologies relating to women’s health, coming out stories, and representations of lesbians in popular culture. Nicki has an enduring interest in autobiographical story-telling and the ways in which reading/writing can become routes for exploring/building identity. She is currently writing a memoir through blackout poetry, using pages of The Observer Magazine as her sole source material. Nicki is an activist within mental health and LGBT+ communities, lives in Nottingham, and regularly participates in the monthly LossLit events on Twitter. See more at

Losslit canon

The Metaphysical Touch - Sylvia Brownrigg

This is an early (in the life of the internet) exploration of human connection online and how the mind seeks to rebuild and reconnect following loss. Pi loses everything in a fire, including a nearly-finished PhD thesis and all her source material. JD shares his thoughts about suicide on a literary internet bulletin board. I love novels which prioritise the inner psychological world of their protagonist(s) and aren’t afraid to look deeply into existential crisis. I have a need to understand myself through the written word, and the intensity and potential of online community very quickly became a significant support to me. I’ve read most of Sylvia Brownrigg’s novels now. She really understands the obsessional qualities of human existence and the learning and yearning associated with loss.

See all entries in the Losslit canon

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