In the pre-pandemic life, I would next Tuesday evening have travelled by train to Stalybridge. Now I am in the Netherlands and will probably eat orange-coloured cakes (left over from King Willem Alexander’s birthday celebrations on Monday).
The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to “promote a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”. It is now a thriving UK arts organisation with over 4,000 members worldwide. Volunteer members run local branches, called Stanzas. These tend to meet monthly to write and critique members’ poems.
The East Manchester & Tameside Stanza meets in the buffet bar on Platform 4 of Stalybridge railway station. The building is one of the very few remaining Victorian station buffet bars. It has the original fittings and fire, and it includes the original 1st class ladies’ waiting room with an ornate ceiling. This award-winning pub is like a museum: lots of photos, railway and other memorabilia.
During feedback sessions, the poem is read twice – by the poet and someone else. The reading may well be interrupted by an announcement We’re sorry that the 19.21 to Manchester Piccadilly has been cancelled…
Portrait was published in my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous. It benefited from feedback from the EM&T Stanza regulars. I hope they are all keeping safe and well.
When I look down
in the water of our harbour,
quiet, resting between barges,
I hope to find a portrait.
White foam is gloves I dropped long ago,
or my grandmother’s starched lace cap,
metal curled at her temples.
When I look down in the black water
I hope to see the fish that has
swallowed my wedding ring,
the ring I lost or threw away.
When I hold water in my hands
I have it: a portrait of my forgotten
eyebrows, my fingers a gold frame.