Monthly Archives: March 2022

Mothering Sunday – a poem

Credit: Silviarita via Pixabay

Today It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK and Ireland, and Summer Time begins. I want to thank Hilary Robinson for letting me share her poem, a gentle homeward journey with rich detail. It also shows how a strong title pulls the reader in. Hilary is the guest poet next month with more poems from her poetry debut Revelation.

Things I Say to my Mum in the Nursing Home

Let’s go to Verdon’s for a quarter of sweets—
American Cream Soda, Rainbow Crystals.
Let me taste the Sarsaparilla Drops,
Fruit Salads, Flying saucers, Cherry Lips.

Walk me up to Marsden’s — I’ll sink
my fingers into dried peas, watch
as butter’s cut and patted into shape;
sugar’s wrapped in rough blue bags.

Take me to the monkey-nut shop
after an hour in Northmoor Library,
breathing in the leather, old-book smell,
where the men scour papers for good news.

Hold my hand, take me to the park
so I can swing high, standing up,
or roly-poly down the slopes,
risk roundabouts, the Wedding Cake.

Take me back to our backyard,
to the tin bath hung on an outside wall,
to my stiff, hard dolls, my teddy bear.
Pass me my square of pink flannelette.

Lockdown Sonnets

It is a huge pleasure to introduce this month’s guest poet: Hamish Wilson whom I met four years ago when I attended a workshop at Garsdale.

Having taught in schools for 31 years, Hamish moved to Cumbria in 2016 to set up and run The Garsdale Retreat, http://www.thegarsdaleretreat.co.uk, a residential creative writing centre. This has allowed him the time and space to develop his own writing career.

The Garsdale Retreat

He has had poetry published in two anthologies: This Place I Know – A New Anthology of Cumbrian Poetry (Ed. Darbishire, Moore, Nuttall/Handstand Press, 2018) and Play (Ed. Taylor, Williams/PaperDart Press, 2018) and was shortlisted for the following competitions: WoLF poetry competition in 2017 and 2018 and Write Out Loud’s Beyond the Storm (Poems From the Covid Era) in 2020. He has also had poems in Culture Matters and The Morning Star.

In 2019 he performed Parallel Lives, (a sonnet sequence with live music, film and photography, exploring the creative lives of John Lennon and Dylan Thomas) at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal.

Written in 2020, Lockdown Journal is a sonnet sequence which explores his experience of the pandemic between 28 March and 21 April, reflecting on daily life in Garsdale as well as the wider world.

I asked Hamish to select three sonnets from Lockdown Journal as a way of marking the second anniversary of the pandemic.

Saturday, 28 March, 2020

The road is quiet. The weekend bikers
who came back with the curlews, have not returned.
This first weekend of Covid lockdown’s like a
languid bank holiday without the burn

of off-comers. Spring greens on regardless,
daffs trumpet; lambs skip, suckle; horned Highland
cattle shadow on the fell; lapwings test
their stuntman wings, plummet to earth (as planned).

At home, virtual visitors ease the time
with supportive texts, puzzles, You Tube vids;
parodies of songs, coronavirus rhymes,
zoom-conferencing and Happy Hour bids.

The News At Six brings contact nationwide,
a thousand UK people now have died.

Friday, 10 April, 2020

Days which bleed to other days still make their mark,
Good Friday’s on regardless and they fear
we’ll enjoy it with dangerous outdoor larks.
We’re shown deserted beaches, seaside piers

which forecast what they hope the weekend brings;
‘Your front door’s safer than a protective mask…..’
cut to bench taped like a crime scene, chained up swings:
stay-at-home’s fine-enforced now not an ask.

Up here, where social distancing’s the norm,
our walk on Blea Moor fell is not policed –
the only drone, a distant train, informs
we’re not alone and breaks the blanket peace.

A sky lark ascends, arpeggios on high,
coal-black speck of dust in the empty sky.

Tuesday, 21 April, 2020

Larks, invisibly high, white noise the sky,
we climb the tussocked sea towards the cairn,
the railway shrinks to Hornby, lapwings cry
like broken squeaky toys. Spring warmth returns.

In shirt-sleeves, we zig-zag slow to summit,
pause to watch a matchbox car surprise
the Coal Road, before we reach the sunlit
limestone and meet a ram skull’s hollow eyes.

The news is billed as good as we’re prepared
with twenty thousand beds to match the needs
of future patients in intensive care.
The experts tell us now we can succeed

to break the rise in deaths, to turn the tide.
Up here, we see our house, our tiny, tiny lives.

Trying – poem

Madingley Hall, near Cambridge

Yesterday I talked with friends about Cambridge. That brought back memories of a one-week workshop at Madingley Hall with the poet Lawrence Sail. Madingley Hall is a 16th Century building just a few miles from Cambridge. It is set in seven acres of splendid gardens and grounds, designed by the famous Capability Brown in the 18th Century.The weather was good the week I was there and we would all find a quiet corner outside and get writing.

Credit: Pasja1000 via Pixabay

One of the exercises was about personification. We mentally went through the alphabet and stopped at a letter that resonated with us. What kind of life does that letter have? What do they want and what is difficult for them?

The poem Trying was published in my debut Another life (Oversteps Books Ltd, 2016).

Trying

Trying not to be like
one who has gone before.
Allocated a slot
at the back of the queue:
a circle dancer with a club foot.

Striving to become
the symbol of perfection.
Dragging a tail,
leaving tiny furrows
on the rough terrain.

Trying then to hide
in foreign places.
Archaic words spoken with a twang:
Qua, quorum, quota, quasi.

A cold place they tell me.
Quebec.

Sirens

Credit: AdAdriaans via Pixabay


Tomorrow is the first Monday of the month when the 4,000+ alarms through the Netherlands are tested. This alarm-and-warning system was set up after the Second World War. The monthly test stopped after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and for a period the sirens were only tested once a year. The government wanted to introduce a warning system by mobile telephone, but this did not prove effective. So, from September 2003 the monthly sounds can be heard for exactly 1 minute and 26 seconds.

The alarms aren’t rung if the first Monday falls on a religious or national public holiday, or on the national Remembrance Day of 4 May. This month, the Dutch people will be reminded beforehand that the sound is just a test.


On Monday I am sending the final manuscript of my collection Remembering / Disease to Aaron Kent at Broken Sleep Books. I have chosen a poem from the new book that includes a siren and want to thank Isabelle Kenyon of Fly on the Wall Press for first selecting it.

Credit: TBIT via Pixabay

Voice

I’m scared of the voice that tells me to let go of the wheel
it’s an old man’s harsh gritty cold pushing me
that time Monday sunny A487 heading for Porthmadog

black figures carry bags home whatever home might mean

silence only sirens calling the dog-end of the year

falling is kind of doing something
you can fall sideways head-first backwards
I have worked all these years to stay upright
running like a rabbit on a metal track