We moved into wintertime last night. A good time for a poem that mentions clocks. For over 12 years three friends and I met monthly at each other’s houses to write, taking turns to host and find sample poems. This came from one of those sessions. It’s published in the pamphlet A Stolen Hour, Grey Hen Press, 2020. The poem was also Highly Commended in the 2016 Manchester Cathedral poetry competition. It was a privilege to read it during the prize-giving at the cathedral.
A la Hafiz
For just one minute of the day open all the windows. Let your mind run alone, like a foal that has never known fields without fences.
For just one minute of the day let your body rest in a place where other people run past, so that they have the permission they need to go and play.
For just one minute of the day go and sit within sight of a large clock. Remember how the three hands are always trying to catch up with each other. Feel your compassion grow. Be still.
With all the rest of your time make bread, make beds, make love. Do what is needed and then close the windows. You are already looking upon yourself more as God does.
It is my pleasure to introduce this month’s poet: Ken Evans. Ken and I met some years ago at writing workshops in Manchester. I hope you enjoy these new poems.
Ken longlisted in the National Poetry Competition this year, and in 2015, while doing a Poetry Master’s in Manchester. In 2018, Ken won the Kent & Sussex competition. His poems feature in Magma, 14, Under the Radar, Envoi, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The High Window, Obsessed with Pipework, and The Interpreter’s House.
In 2016, Ken won the Battered Moons Competition and was runner-up in Poets & Players. A first pamphlet, ‘The Opposite of Defeat’ appeared in 2016. Ken’s first collection, ‘True Forensics’ in 2018. He’s thinking he may be close to finishing a second collection…
A tiny hop on one leg when you see me, a straightening to rise and bob, then a small correction, mid-
air, as you pivot yourself to steady, like a dust-devil swaying over tarmac after days of brown desert.
Your black leather jacket and red blouse, a grey plait across one shoulder, all thought through before, but for a moment,
I glimpse the girl in a classroom drawing, a pink tongue seeming to swing your attentive, cross-hatching pencil-hand from side
to side: the fleshy dark mirror of your jacket. Supple and barely touching, we hug and pull back with comradely smiles, but you catch
my thought as it forms, like a cloud in a cleaned window, before looking up, to see the thing itself.
Forever, the Light from Sirius Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, whose light takes 9 years to reach Earth
Earth, I left a voicemail, my umpty-eighth. Must I really draw a picture, me that loves you, as the flip-side of your silver coin? I am not who set out, nine years ago. I am not the me I left behind, and you are not the you I came to talk to then, but you can see my same light now, crystalline, falling.
A tendency to see the deceased’s room as empty is a control mechanism, when it’s no more void than
a December garden at four-twenty, the light running out of the day’s green bottle faster than
drips down a window, though in fact, calls thread the blackening sky and hedges: an owl more than
clearing its throat for the nightshift, or the longer than usual high call of a wren, louder even than
the distant, reverse warning alarm on a lorry at the steel factory, red lights more piercing than
crows commenting from the chimney pots. The room itself is bare, a white-out, rather than
featureless. A glass door throws what light there is on the carpet, naked and pinker where divots
from what was chair legs puncture the fibres, the hollows suggesting how she faced one way
so many unfurling days, the pile threadbare where her slippers marked the apex of a star
in front of her, tracks now damped by towels and steamed with an iron to raise back the flush,
though not all obey. Lines left by a Welsh dresser still bear her weight, the not-yet-gone of her,
the thoroughfare of a ruined city where I am an unguided tourist greeted ceremonially
at the eastern gate by a roaring lion with a nose lost to weathering, running due west in a straight line
to the red sunset, only the weeds in the mortar noting the location, the sub-divisions of the hours.
The Final Invoice from the Co-Op A part-found poem
for bringing the deceased into our care in working hours; for private use of the Chapel of Rest; for care and preparation of the deceased before the funeral; for provision of a hearse and three personnel for the service; for choice of a Simple coffin; a Minister’s and a Doctor’s fee; for a non-witnessed scattering of the ashes in the Garden of Remembrance. Note: none of the above subject to VAT.
It’s false then that, ‘nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,’ Benjamin Franklin or Daniel Defoe, whoever it was wrote that. What we remember of our lost may yet be false: a conservator before it was a cause or fashion, she dunked tea bags twice, marked the coffee on a jar with the stub of an HB pencil, and saved her hearing-aid batteries for birdsong. She’d dance with one hand on her stick, for such a deal – ‘Look, no VAT on dying, a saving of 20% – Bingo!’
In the Netherlands it was National Vegetable- and Fruit Day on Thursday 14 October. The front cover of the weekly free paper was a large colour photo of three local shop owners encouraging us to ‘go for colour’ – have some fruit or veg to deal with the afternoon ‘dip’.
The Dutch love their tomatoes: it’s the most popular vegetable, making up of 10% of vegetables bought. The Dutch are eating a little more fruit and veg this year, compared to last year. The most popular fruit was the banana. Probably because fewer apples were harvested.
The poem Satsumas was published in my debut collection Another life, by Oversteps Books in 2016. I wrote it on a workshop where the tutor suggested that ‘half a sestina might be called a satsuma’. I’m always grateful for prompts!
The mandarin is also a clementine, or a seedless tangerine. They must not be confused with the satsuma, first exported from the province Satsuma in Japan.
The men and women of the Fruit-and-Veg Marketing Board are introducing their successes: the Orkney, a type of button mushroom, but a clear ice-white and stoic. There is the Argyle, an improved form of celery with lower water content, therefore less stringy and greener. The Devon is already being exported to Japan: a small, tasty apple, dark red, square and stackable.
No-one mentions the Wicklow with a taste like ratatouille after a fortnight in the fridge, or the Sark, a long, sour, brown hairy thing lying at the back in wooden crates.
The Safe Place or Special Place exercise is an essential part of the preparation phase of EMDR, before the client or patient starts the processing of the traumatic memory.
Today is World Mental Health Day. Below is my sonnet about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). EMDR is a a proven trauma treatment which has been NICE-recommended in the UK since 2005. In 2013 it was also listed as a recommended trauma treatment on the website of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The poem is included in my pamphlet A Stolen Hour, published by Grey Hen Press, 2020.
2 pm Appointment
Holding a fingertip to his right ear; this is the worst part of the memory: all bright, vivid. He is still forced to see and feel the machete: cold steel, cold fear
Now he dreams, cannot sleep, was driven here by his wife. Four or five men, he tells me, balaclavas, jumped from a van. Now he lies with a blanket of guilt, but it’s clear to me that he wants to become the man that he was. That he did the best he could.
As you’ve come through pain and grief in the past, you can do that again. Sounds and sights can go. We’ll create your Safe Place now. I’ll put you in for next week. This stuff will go, fast.
Here in Scheveningen, the seaside district of The Hague, it’s a wet Sunday. Tomorrow it’ll be World Animal Day. Here is a short poem with wet animals, inspired by seeing the peregrine falcons at Norwich Cathedral. It’s from my pamphlet A Stolen Hour, published by Grey Hen Press.
I am the last stonemason. Green water spouts from the gargoyle to my left. I am hidden up here with the two peregrines, sodden on their cathedral nest.
My apprentice didn’t come today. Black sky, lightning and the distant rumbling of armies advancing, retreating. I count hours on my arthritic fingers.