Ella Frears

Ella Frears is a poet and artist based in London. Her debut collection Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books, 2020) was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. Her poems about the St Ives Modernists are currently on show at Tate St Ives.

Ella  Frears

Photo: Etienne Gilfillan

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Ella Frears asks who is driving the poem

Mon 8 March | 17:30 | FREE | StAnza Online

Poem

The (Little) Death of the Author

How many times, aged thirteen or so, did you send a text 
saying I’m in the bath
in reply to a boy you liked
asking you what you were up to?
And how many boys made you blush,
rosy and excited, by replying ...can I join you?

A triumph. You had succeeded, you
had made them think of you naked — the text
simple, factual. The image of your body’s hot-water blush
suddenly the only thing they could focus on; the bath
or the idea of the bath incredibly steamy, allowing them to 
say what they would like

to do, or at least, what they wanted you to think they’d like.
You were never in the bath, you
were always having dinner or trying to
finish homework. Text
and context are two different things. The bath
was a vessel into which you placed the idea of your blushing

body, (sent it across; innocent). And his excitement, his blush 
was on him. He didn’t have to reply if he didn’t like. 
How clever you were! That ellipsis after bath...
an invitation to fill the gap… you…
All, of course, existing solely within the text.
There was no way for him to

come over, it was nine pm — too
late to have friends round – let alone boys (you blush 
at the thought). No – any act was purely subtext.
When he asked to join you, he was asking if you liked
him: he sees your nakedness and raises you
lowering himself into the metaphorical bath.

In your mind it was a luxurious roll-top bath 
no doubt. And to him your body was closer to
the women in films than a child’s body. And you
had superimposed the penis you saw on a bus once, blushing
at the thought of it on him. Or maybe it wasn’t like
that. Maybe the important part was the nakedness of the text,

which is a text I continue to send: Reader, I’m in the bath…
Nothing more to say than that. And if you like 
you can join me. I’m blushing, are you?

Ella Frears

From Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books, 2020)