Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Midwinter

The shortest day;
a low globe of iced melon sun.
Our burning friend is at his
southernmost,
a stony face looking out upon the mud.
All landscapes here are monochrome,
the colour saving itself
for brighter times.
All birds fly in silhouette.
All thoughts tend towards reflection.
The longest night;
midwinter but a moment in time.
We hurtle towards the end of the year,
knowing not what awaits us,
knowing only what has been.

This poem appears on the Stonetape Recordings CD Midwinter Folk, exclusively produced for the event Midwinter Folk, a one-day festival raising funds for Leigh Folk Festival in collaboration with Sundown Arts, which was held on 14 December 2013. www.leighfolkfestival.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Brent Geese

This poem was exclusively written for Shorelines: the literary festival of the sea, Leigh on Sea, November 2013

A midnight pitch on
cadent mud,
the undulating seabed
painted silver by the 
cannonball moon.
Ten thousand crane-necked souls,
ten thousand barking calls,
twenty thousand cold-splayed claws;
twenty thousand wings.
Dogged by wind and tundra,
they sleek across Siberia to
winter with us.
Two thousand five hundred miles;
a pilgrimage, a mission,
to settle feathers in our Estuary
as they always have done, through time.
Stoop-backed trees bend,
elderly and stiffened by the years,
reaching out a crutch of branch-arm
lending an ear to the throng.
The landscape is monochrome -
a yearly welcome of grey to the birds,
for a night-watch of clamour and
blare.
From the Arctic to our 
little hum of home,
they will do this again,
they will do this again,
backlit by steelworks and
ship lights,
cosying up on mud and saltflat
buoyed by samphire pillows and
every year it plays the same. We welcome them,
our tourist horde,
with open wings
and an open ticket,
to come again next time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

October haiku

Lamp posts dripping lace
Foot-stepped jam underneath trees
offering berries.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Greetings.

This used to be a bakery,
but nothing now would indicate so.
No soothing smells of iced buns,
doughnuts, or sausage rolls.
Instead:
carpet; cardboard; glossy printed ink.
We are in the bowels of a
greetings card business.
Soldier rows of boxes display
mysterious codes like
CD0032 or
LTG26.
Greetings cards in bulk,
cellophaned,
an ancient fax and
gaffer tape keeping the carpet down.
Someone in Putney wants cards with trees on,
in Australia they favour the sea.
A burring telephone, constant
communication;
the crackle of Radio 4.
We drink Earl Grey in china cups,
a dash of milk,
perhaps a chocolate biscuit.
We go out for cakes,
to another bakery to keep this
ex-bakery in sweet treats.
We teeter on ladders, hauling cards to pack:
insert an envelope,
insert into cellophane,
seal with a sticker.
The repetitive task makes
way for gossip, more tea, until
France calls. They want the vintage card range,
the ones with golden cherubs
sucking chubby thumbs.
We pack and gaffer and weigh and lug.
Invoices, emails, faxes, calls.
Set the answerphone, turn the outside light on.
Packed blank cards for other people's words,
they get sent out, shipped away.
Wash the cups up, ready for another day.


This poem is for Pauline Palmer, Holly Whiteley and Emma McArthur. Happy National Poetry Day x

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rain-on-sea

The rain is chucked back up and
salt-warm
as it smashes onto the water.
Pins dart up, grey-on-grey,
the peninsula has disappeared.
A foghorn,
a crow caw,
the air is brine.
The clouded fret,
a moving mass,
it creeps and smothers and
folds rain out over it all.
Wet on wet,
the estuary swells and foams,
pocked with drops and
gull-free.
The air is brine;
a chimney looms out of the fog.
A ship slices by, eyes
blinking yellow light.
Sudden calm,
quiet,
a degree cooler.
It starts to clear.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Flash!

Each roar of thunder
a storming T-Rex of noise;
then hailstone applause.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Leigh Folk

This poem was written exclusively for the Library of Aethers radio show on Ship Full of Bombs: the Thames Delta independent radio station.

The grass of the Library Gardens is
warm and springy underfoot,
the park is pregnant with
swelling families,
drunk-walking toddlers and
the first MC steps to the stage.
The bursting fizz-scack of an opened cider can,
as the musician tunes up.
Children beg for paper bags of fudge
that parents will find,
greasy and translucent in a kagoule pocket
in three months' time.
There is the hiss and pop of sausages on a grill,
burger buns and cups of tea,
a queue for ice creams, and sugar on the breeze.
A man in a suit with a
flowerpot on his head dances,
clutching a boom box;
confusing children and
amusing grown-ups.
Music fills the air; people wander,
sit on rugs,
and hardcore folkers stand with hands on hips
like teapots
with pewter tankards swinging from their belts.
Then, it's Sunday,
the punters have taken their sunkissed faces home
and refreshed overnight, ready to
sweep down the hill to the Old Town.
More folk-loving folk, and there's chips,
seagulls eating chips,
buggy wheels smashing over chips,
poets and fiddle players queuing for chips,
chips and cockles,
cider and clogs,
shanties and blues,
a procession and booze,
and music,
and music,
and music,
and music.
People fall in love with a new style,
there's noise and chatter, and all the while
there's dropped cornets,
and puppets,
a man dressed as a giant baby
but it's ok, it's ok,
on this day of the year it's ok.
And the Sunday evening rolls around,
and the tin-rattlers stop making their sound;
we vow to buy more records,
and not eat so many chips,
and not drink so much beer,
but we have a list as long as our arms of
new music to investigate,
and new pages to like on Facebook,
and it's only a matter of days before
we dust down our guitars or
ukuleles or
violins and
the folk is instilled in us all,
in our hearts and ears and
in our chippy tummies.
Until next year.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Birds.

These poems were written to perform at a Sundown Arts event featuring Birdwatchers' Wives, a performance piece by artist Caroline Smith.

Hide.

A twitch of tweed hat
sneeps through wooden slat.
There are caws,
and carks outside,
and whispers of reedy grass.
The lid from a flask of tea drips
cold buttons of condensation that
flash like bird's eyes on the dusty floor.
There is no drama here,
but the snaps of beaks fighting
over slivers of fish,
or the minor horror
of a dog let loose
into the hide.

Binoculars

It is midnight.
I have literally just turned eleven.
My brain is fizzing with the sense of BIRTHDAY.
My feet kick impatiently as my sister slumbers,
and I wish the next seven hours away.
I know I'll get cards,
and bath pearls,
and a Friends video,
and hopefully new felt-tip pens
but most of all
I am getting
NEW BINOCULARS.
This is highly exciting.
This means my Dad and I can tramp through woods
with our own binoculars
and look for birds.
My favourites are jays,
pied wagtails,
avocets
and great tits.
My pre-teen mind does not think to find this funny.

In my first tutorial class
in my new secondary,
all-girls,
hyper intense school,
we have to write a list of Hobbies.
I write:
Writing stories
Playing guitar
Birdwatching.

We read them out. There is a
snick of laughter
coming from the girls who put
Shopping
Cinema
Boys.

Very soon after,
the binoculars become my mum's
and I never go to Lee Valley with my Dad
to look for oystercatchers.
I go to the cinema instead.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Middle Class Woes

I'm coming to terms with my middle class woes.
It turns out I have them EVERY DAY.
There's a strike, and there is no Today programme on Radio 4! How will I know what's going on with the world?
Fairtrade cloves are FAR too crumbly to make a pomander.
I have eaten so many M&S redcurrant puffs I may burst.
Mustn't drop my laptop in the footspa while I write this.
Oh, and we ran out of newspaper to wrap food waste in for the compost: so we're using Vogue instead.
Ugh! There's apple in my Waitrose beetroot salad! I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS!
Woah, I nearly deafened myself there, eating Kettle Chips with my noise-cancelling earphones on. Oof!
OH MY GOD there are no avocados in the shops; HOW will I make guacamole now??
Shit, it's Clinique Bonus Time; if I buy two skincare products I get a free make-up bag. My bathroom cabinet is already stocked with everything I need. BUT I WANT THE MAKE-UP BAG. To add to my 'Clinique Bonus Time free make-up bag' drawer.
I *really* cannot get to grips with the new layout of the Radio Times. The daytime schedule wasn't always like this!
Somebody help me.