Poetry

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Appleby December 5th

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Silently

it came.

It always does.

Curling furlong brown

bloated flouting torrent,

its roar is hushed as it creeps, relentlessly

through gateways, between bricks before pressing up through the floor.

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Darkly

it spreads,

inky mass of

fellwater rainwater 

riverwater nightwater 

nightmarewater; a sadness of shops look down 

at their petticoats, fallen-woman muddied and soiled,

as Christmas lights hang lank, reflected in the sliding shifts of 

livelihoods 

washing 

downstream.

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Excuse

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There nothing in those darkened woods

For a burnt up elder like me.

Time was I had the pick of feast

Time was the young ones would step back when they saw me step up

Time was I stood proud; always first to be sated.

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Now, I’m lucky if I get the last gristly ear, 

The last shattered bone, 

The last shred of rancid gut.

So, seeing her, luscious, sweet and succulent

Red-hooded and ready for sucking

Imagining ripping into ripeness – it was too much

After days of darkened desert.

It was easy to overpower the old one.

Trembling tantalising anticipation

I spoke forked falsehood

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Come closer, then I can hear ye 

Come closer, then I may see ye 

Come closer then I can smell ye

I’m breathless

I’m panting

grunting and hunting

I know I dribbled; juices flow in my mouth

It fell out of me: I couldn’t bear

her so close, so near. I could nearly touch, skin fizzing, belly growling

It fell out of me

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Come closer so I can taste you

Oh, and woodcutter – she did.

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Single shoe

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Who drops them? how are they lost? 

Who casts them adrift to carve their own path

through the mist?

I wonder, as I brush my own toes through pondering grass, 

and I see a grubby whitish plimsoll sitting on its own sole, 

bent tongue and sodden grey laces, 

I wonder, 

when did you appear – just here?

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Was it in 2020 when our world stopped, and we peered melted, through our isolating glass

or was it when the globe crackled and burnt, Arctic and Australia 

when alphabet storm after storm after storm tore holes in our skies 

emptying skyrivers into our postage stamp gardens

Was it when nurses sobbed at food banks 

(what is a bank for food anyway?) and everyone seemed so angry

(or were they all just struggling and sad?)

was it when our heavens fell pregnant with blue 

and goats traversed empty high streets, 

when birds found their voices and choirs lost theirs?

Was it when only indoors was safe though for some it was unsafer 

and our neighbours could be poison so we kept away to save their lives?

when income just halted as tumbleweed scrawled across our diaries 

and we sat unblinking, eating biscuits and our children cried wild

when we all felt a bit broken, 

like planet like people

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Curled like a forgotten page, 

the single shoe keeps its secrets to itself

maybe it is an adventurer 

making a run for liberty, equality and friendship 

snuffling through dampened leaves

searching for breathing earth and abundance of dances

single-toed tapping

moonflit prances

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I’m a 2021 shoe

things look different there

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The Corner Shop

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Sad bread and lonely milk,

dusty books with sideways glanced covers,

illicit sugar cigarettes,

eye level sweeties

eyed with hot shilling clutched in palm.

Aniseed twists just for you today!

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Always open 

even on Christmas Day,

height of convenience when all the other shops

(in the opposite direction in more ways than one)

were strictly closed –

eyebrows raised at one’s louchness

or housewifery failings

at not having bought milk or sugar at The Right Time.

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The Shop on the Corner

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Eight year old eye level – candles, mousetrap, stamps; exotic metallic ribbon,

paintbrush, a jug, films; bull halter, chocolates, and wishes, 

See these – plugs on a chain, plug for the panto, plugs for the telly!

Don’t forget the fuse.

And over there, Policeman’s notebook (flip book cartoons), 

7-inch single, wee china Whimsies (saving up sixpences)

paper tablecloth, pegs, Tom Thumb pips

and inexplicable packets behind the counter

that you don’t need to worry about just yet…

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Forty years on;

fusty net curtains at the window,

silence at the cobwebbed door.

No more mint imperials after school,

only echoes of children’s running feet, storytelling

around the postbox.

Ten miles in the car to the faceless hypermarket 

where no one knows your name 

or your favourite.

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Duchess, damning

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Orchestra of hooves

curl of nostril

flare of hair

they see the world reflected in my eye

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Sheets of muscle

air of calm

explosion of space 

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they borrow my wings to feel they can fly

Mirror of companions

warmth of scent

silence of our talk

I lend my speed to them and become their machine of war

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you say you adore my child and you took him away

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they say they are in awe of our power and then sit upon my baby’s back

the plains are our home and they put us in four walls

he cannot bear to be alone and they make it so

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when he cries his anguish you beat him

when he signals his fear your metal rips at his mouth

when he tries to flee, your steel on his hooves clatters and slides

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your language I cannot understand as you

small, weak yet furious

drag and scrape at him

You, demanding of imposition,

steely of will,

biting of anger.

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Where he drank the wind

his tongue is now blue,

where he strode lightly upon our earth 

he now rattles between stone,

where he danced with joy amongst friends

he now twitches, tied down, to do another’s bidding.

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For a Friend on the Edge of Panic

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I hear you

and this one, this spell, this task

I can do.

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Recognising floodwaters rising, from toes to gorge

I recall that strangling sense 

of airways closing and beating breath and heart twisting tight.

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Yet come, with relief and quiet joy

knowing I have what you need, I beckon.

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Here I have eagles’ flights

soaring sky-tip heights

and you can see your days, dotted forays 

invisible in an instant as we see world without end –

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and here, see!

I can lend you the eyes of horses,

aeons of wisdom living in the moment,

no yesterdays to hinder and no tomorrows to hurt,

just today to breathe into.

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Then, let me drape this mantle of music

around your shoulders, 

this will tingle every fibre 

each synapse on fire 

giving you a core of a concerto. 

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I’ll unfold your fear

by laying this map of trees around us,

their slow voices and century spun roots

will rebuild you and hold you 

and knit you a cloak of oak chain –

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and now the water, our water

tumbling, beyond, before and behind

the orchestra of the sea, the choirs of cloud

eternal song of stream, river and rain

carrying you afloat from drip to cascade.

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Let me do this, this I can do

I give you my strength.


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One September morning

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I took my friend and found a cave

round as a bell, and we stepped out of our lives.

stepping stones and the drip drop

of water on its percussive journey

from sky to slick rock.

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We unfolded our voices and sung

And the cave sung back

we threw away the words, 

chopped up chips of complication.

They weren’t needed.

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We stretched phrases and pulled at time

silver echoes, gold sound. 

We let the notes climb, the cave spins

it’s own answering line

ringing mirrors of melody

like soaring swallows,

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and I swear I began to see colours;

lavender, teal, burnt blue

undersea emerald and moonglow.

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It begins to feel as if

our bodies have faded

and we are just voices

us two, and the cave.

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We Visit the Stables Whilst the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Elsewhere, Throwing Dice

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Here is the first stable and here is Tempest

she is the wind,

her hooves small tight jewels 

whistle the earth as she flies

pennant mane streaming from her neck

etched head achingly sharp,

sharp the slicing wind drops to her warm breath of air as she dips her muzzle into my hand.

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Next door,

Bella the beautiful is the sun 

goldengaze liquidheat emanates as she stands still,

still stands, watchinglistening to the wide landscape, 

her fire china eyes, John Donne eyes, world reflected, 

kind sun with underness of a white crimson hot core

complete and complex, I see her and I know her.

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And here is the giant of kind,

Samson the storm, the thunder, the rain, the electricity, 

his steps are ground shifting

Valkyries fly around his head

Wagner accompanies his hooves

concertos shake the oak trees

the air shakes as he passes by and he gifts me his strength.

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Tiny Tarianna is in the last stable – or where is she?

she is the frost the snow the mist

the creeping things, 

she’s where you least expect her, 

quiet, bright eyed, silent insistence, 

no fence holds her in

yet she guards and gentles and gentled my children.