Black Bullets in the Sweet Jar

Durham writer Alison Carr looks back to the childhood she lost when she was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver at the age of eight. Opening with a remarkable poem about the brain-surgery that followed her accident, Black Bullets in the Sweet Jar explores her overwhelming sense of being expelled from childhood. The book is constructed around a series of iterative images of playground games, apples and seasonal change, cleverly connecting personal feelings of loss and ageing with larger narratives – mythical, Biblical, anthropological and economic. Running through all these poems is the idea of a fall – from innocence, from childhood, from Paradise.

Sample Poems

Play Away

Jackanory-story books curl their pages,
The child climbs the ladder into darkness,
Dandy, Beano, Twinkle,
Snakes and Ladders, Twister,
Pandora has let the hissing serpent of jealousy 
Out of the dressy-up box.

Life joins hands with Florence and Zebedee,
Parsley speaks,
Professor Yaffle yawns,
Handprints on the wallpaper,
Lego walls crumble,
Black-board chalk screams.

Abacus, building blocks,
One, two, three coloured bricks,
Turning the Page
Swirling colours,
Comic characters,
Kaleidoscope of hurt and disappointment.

Thundercats roar at the gates of Castle Greyskull,
Rapunzel spins, spins her beautiful hair,
Fantasy’s ache grows thin,
Magic roundabouts whirl,
Seasons turn,
The fieldmice scamper,
Hickory-dickory dock.
Hamble stares out of the arched window.

Tiddlywinks, Scalextric,
The magician’s sleight of hand,
Punch touches his jester’s cap;
That’s how you do it.
Captain Hook is still searching for Peter Pan.


Skipping ropes, sports days, playground games,
Ring a ring o’ roses
Ropes twist in the air,
Bright ribbons in the girls’ hair.
Powder-shot brilliant sunshine.

We all fall down.

Gobstopper Days

Bulls’ eyes in the sweet-shop window,
A toffee sweet haze
Of penny dips, licked fingers,
Sugar sprinkle, pink fizz,
Sawdust lucky dips,
Boiled sweets in striped pyjamas, 
The petal scent and fizz of sweetness.
The sherbet twists of my childhood.

The dark taste of liquorice
Purpling lips like a punch in the mouth.

Daisy-chains and Nettle Stings

Hiding in the bushes,
The smell of cap-guns,
The crack of the cap –
I want it all back.

Grubby knees, orchard trees,
Throwing pebbles, bouncing balls,
The fizz, the surprise
Of Dandelion and Burdock;

Dragonflies on the stream,
Skimmed stones, dipped toes,
Fingers trailing in the water.
The future bright as crocuses;

Dock leaves, dandelions,
Puppy dog tails and tadpole jars,
Rosehip times and sundial hours
Under the trees’ pewter branches;

Gorse, broom, torn grass,
Conker fights, climbing trees
Dandelions, counting time,
Holding hopes. Yours. Mine.


Handstands in the playground,
Haggle in the yard,
Huddle away from the rain.

Let’s play Poison.


Hanging fruitfulness,
A hollow skull,
Wasps gather.


Leaves are carried away by the wind,
The woodpecker pounds out a list of names
Tattooed in bark.


The dandelion roars
Then goes back to sleep,
Dreaming of pavements split 
By yellow maned weeds.


The dog is dying of melancholy,
The cat has escaped.
Unlike me.


‘Poignant and beautiful, silent screams from a lost childhood. Poems that glitter like tiny gem stones, their edges sharp as cut glass.’

Avril Joy

‘These poems are filled with savage insight. Shockingly open – packed with psychological power: a life pared back to its brutal essentials, with its combination of insight, irony and despair. She takes no prisoners. Every word is indeed a bullet.’

Wendy Robertson

‘an earthy, grass-stained surrealism.’

Nick Moss, Culture Matters