Tag Archives: Poets & Players

A Mirroring – poems

Ken Evans

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 Mirroring

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.

Tracks

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!’

Above a thousand feet of space

 

D Wilson action

 

In the Balance

You pause beneath a boss of ice
above a thousand feet of space.
The picks of your axes barely bite:
it’s bullet hard, black with rock dust.
You’ve run out forty feet of rope,
placed only an ice-screw and screamer.
You’ve dreamed of this route for half your life.
Your calves ache. You can’t wait long.

Decision time. Weigh the following:-
an abseil retreat to blankets, pasta, beer;
the taste in your mouth if you bottle out;
November at work without a fix;
glimpses of where the pitch might ease;
a face at a window, Dad come home,
and you not knowing where you’ve been
or how to get back from it.

 
David Wilson turned to writing poetry a few years ago after being inspired by reading Derek Walcott’s poem ‘Midsummer, Tobago’ on the wall of a hospital waiting room in Leeds. He then discovered the Writing Days run by the Poetry Business in Sheffield and started writing poems of his own. His pamphlet Slope was published by Smith/Doorstop in 2016 and he has a collection coming out with them in 2019.

David was born and brought up in North London and studied at the London School of Economics, followed by a Master’s degree at Leeds University, which at the time had the only indoor climbing wall in the country and was close to excellent outcrop climbing. He has climbed extensively in the UK, Alps and further afield, at a standard best described as erratic.  In mid-life he got hooked on windsurfing, but writing about climbing has led him back into it.

After living in Leeds, David settled with his family in Harrogate. He has worked freelance for many years as an organisation development consultant. He now works part-time, exclusively in the area of academic leadership, helping people like Heads of Department to tackle the many challenges they face. He mainly works 1:1 with people and the diversity of their subject areas is a delight: from Medieval Welsh Poetry to Theoretical Physics to Cancer Research to Arabic, and that’s just in the past few weeks!  Favourite poets include Jane Kenyon, Les Murray, Jane McKie, Norman McCaig and Seamus Heaney.

Slope cover

David and I met on the 2012/13 Writing School and I’m delighted to share his work. Below are more poems from the pamphlet Slope. Everest was awarded 1st prize in the 2015 Poets & Players poetry competition, judged by Paul Muldoon. For a few technical terms: a cam is a device fitted into cracks to protect a lead climber. It has spring-loaded metal cams which grip the rock. A Micro-traxion gadget is a pulley that locks the rope, capturing what’s gained as a climber is hauled from a crevasse. A screamer is a sling which has stitches designed to rip and thereby absorb the energy of a fall. Typically used with doubtful ice-screws.

Stanage Edge

Summer’s returned for one day only,
blue sky, no wind, mist in the valleys,
bracken bronzing every hill,
the Edge’s gritstone silver in the sun.
Rock warm to touch. But holds won’t sweat.

I check my harness, knots and rack,
lay away, step high and up again to poise
off-balance, wriggle a cam into place,
then smear a slab, heels low, until
a crack grips my outstretched hand.

We linger on the edge. Smoke rises
straight up from the chimney at Hope.
It’s not a day to hurl ourselves against
but for dancing with, to feel alive
on Black Slab, Inverted V, Goliath’s Groove.

And it will light the long edge in our minds,
where name after name spells a life,
Flying Buttress and Left Unconquerable,
holds we could trust to be always there,
winds which threw every word away.

 

Everest

Once it was Chomolungma,
Mother Goddess of the Earth,
a face whose veil rarely lifted,
its whiteness the White Whale’s.

Now it’s like Elvis near the end,
a giant in a soiled jumpsuit,
blank, useful for percentages,
a sheet from which the music’s fled.

 

Alpine Partner

I was thinking of glaciers as metaphors,
you knew the car park’s exit code.
And you’d practised techniques
for rescue from a crevasse.

to dig a T slot, bury your ice-axe,
attach our micro-traxion gadget,
then fix the rope as a Z-haul
across the sweating surface, so that inch

by inch you heaved me up when I fell,
up from that cold place – its white walls
and longing, fins of green ice, pale blue caves,
darker blue depth beyond saying.