I wanted to use the last day of my residency as a way to share poetry (what else!) I reached out to people who came to writing times and the sharing event earlier in the month, and they sent me some of their own work and some of their favourite pieces too.
This miniature anthology we have created consists of ten poems, and I am going to resist the urge to comment in between. I am very grateful to all the poets here and to Poetry Business for this open and creative space we’ve been occupying.
Emma L Doughty
The dark warm ground
Becomes the prisons that are your home
A heart that keeps breaking
Why are denials so cruel?
Red brick house
Where passions are too dangerous
The female brain
Learns secrets always come out
The blue ocean of open dreams
Swirling anger of frustration
The blue rim cup slips
Leading to heartbreak where dreams shatter
A sliver chest freezer
Keeping a lid on the loves for the wrong ones
Where the poet stops, the poem
begins. The poem asks only
that the poet get out of the way.
The poem empties itself
in order to fill itself up.
The poem is nearest the poet
when the poet laments
that it has vanished forever.
When the poet disappears
the poem becomes visible.
What may the poem choose,
best for the poet?
It will choose that the poet
not choose for himself.
The usual sound of air
breathing between us
at the hour of dinner,
the fan spins
by a compass of thought;
the cut salad has lost its tender juice
and all that glistens are my grandmother’s eyes
when they meet mine,
and we break the drudgery of silence
as she looks at the salt intently,
and I pass it to her;
the two of us charmed by our humble victory
of having built a bridge
upon a sea of quiet,
without disturbing it.
for Emma and Lauren
It’s hard because we could be anywhere.
A working bridge, a boat, a church, a factory
broken down to bricks, a glass hotel
of blue and crystal light. A country house
(as long as the carpets were right). I’d marry you
in sun or rain or snow, or as the night
would fall amongst the trees and orange flames
and we’d be queens, fairies, ancient gods.
But picture this: the aisle candle-lit.
Autumn’s heavy leaves with sprays of white,
reds the red of breathless blood returning
to the heart. Soft music. The weight of wood
on stone, blues like foreign skies, the paintwork
perfect. And where the paint chips, perfect.
A crab on the phone box floor; the armless mannequin
on the chapel roof at dawn; the plastic toad in the office
biscuit tin; three cuts on your shin this morning to make
the letter A; the wedding cake abandoned in the car park
of the motorway services; the caraway seed in the turn-up
of your jeans; the waxwork head of Chaplin in the bowling
bag in the overhead locker of the night train to Munich;
a slug exposed by the spotlight of a hushed concert hall;
or the roaring magnificent intersection of these objects,
which probably never existed, but we can each picture,
drawn from our unique worlds at large, knocking like fish,
trying to agree; meanwhile, either somebody else somewhere
is reading this now, or no one else in the entire world is.
Like the moon
a phone cannot capture you.
You’ve never been one to pose
or say ‘cheese’
so I can only hope
stay printed in my mind
in the absence of a frame.
after Holly Hopkins
You teach children how to be cruel: huge,
they grab you, shake until you might split.
On your back you show pigments
we’re surprised by: red and black hues
tell us something we never knew
about evolution. You weren’t made for this
small dome, cartoon-pink lid,
drip fed enough to keep you moving.
You taught us about life, how it isn’t
easier to give up; tapping against the clear bowl
with broken feet. I didn’t want to think about you
then and now I cannot stop. The bent plastic,
your soft-frilled shell, the rough, lapping waves
that final, lasting green of the lake.
Mostly it is a pale
face hovering in the after draught
of the spirit, making both ends meet
on a scream. It is the breath
of the churchyard, the forming
of white frost in a believer,
when he would pray; it is soft
feathers camouflaging a machine.
It repeats itself year
after year in its offspring,
the staring pupils it teaches
its music to, that is the voice
of God in the darkness cursing himself
fiercely for his lack of love.
and there the owl happens
like white frost as
cruel and as silent
and the time on its
blank face is not
now so the dead
have nothing to go
by and are fast
or slow but never punctual
as the alarm is
over their bleached bones
of its night-strangled cry.
The Old Lad By Us
He whistles with a walking stick these days grabs a tan off
the digesting sun. Rolls up a newspaper for a square pocket.
Catches butterflies with his eyelashes. Shaves his soles along
a road built for tractors. Spits into potholes through a badger dug
mouth. Gone are the days of Larsen Traps, pheasant food,
and bullets for sparrowhawks. A scratch of stubble grinds
out of a jaw too big for a face. Nostril hair dangles
as spider legs on a brick. Triangular sun rays fill
his bald patch with a light he only sees in his moonlit yard.
A limp falls out of him every six steps. The sandy brown coat
fits over his shoulder girdle with the grip he shows to rabbit fur.
His wife is alive though keeps her voice for the AGA.
They have a landrover and three grandchildren. Feed all
with frowns and stutter. A laburnum grows at the end of his garden
masts a summer he forgets when picking tomatoes.
Winter hides in his left eye, flickers in a sty that lingers still.
Every morning he puts down this road with his biscuit-dunked tongue.
If I see him when dog walking I feel a coldness that makes me
check my fly is up. He swallows you whole if you
haven’t had breakfast. When he’s gone, I look back, watch him
bend a corner. Hear the silence in the living.
10th April 2020
Dad has mowed the lawn two days in a row.
It explains our lives now – the pushing along
of a machine, blades with nothing to cut –
acting our lives out just to be purposeful.
I got dressed up for a zoom conference
and cried at a kind letter which landed on the doormat.
I need two witnesses who aren’t beneficiaries
to finalise my will. My lawyer suggests
I ask my neighbours to watch through the window,
because even with expected deaths the Government
aren’t changing the rules. The GP rang this afternoon
trying to talk about a DNR order. I refused,
instead told him about starlings murmurating
and all the living I have left to do.