2020 top 5, Poem, Poetry

Number 2 – Jonathan Humble

In the lead for so long, Jonathan’s post from August celebrates two poems from his wonderful debut pamphlet, Fledge.

Dandelion Sun

A child’s sun finds a dream in young eyes.
In blinks of dandelion eclipses, 
refracted light reflects on retinas 
holding warmth in ragged leaves 
below a flower standing up and out.
Ryegrass and foxtail for company,
a golden head of petals, 
swaying and slight, 
is there and gone and there again.

The wings of friends unfold to test the air
with thoughts aloft in stretching skies,
days that lift and soar with matchless views.
They seek what hawks perceive as truth 
yet still count the faces that look familiar.

And dipping hands in search of clues, 
a box of sights, 
of scent and sound,
they choose a shade and wear a skin, 
fit in and lose themselves as one of many. 

But this child blinks dandelion eclipses;
hawkbit tinctures bathing open eyes
with picture sun now placed behind an ear 
while looking up and out.

A trust in truth is not weighed as cost
and light in ragged leaves endures. 
Though slight, 
as scythes descend and sweep the dream,
it will not fail at dusk.

Invitation To Move On

I am small in the sea, pushed around 
by waves that care not for any grain of sand
or stuff that floats in a broken head.

Arms held wide and high, that reach and cling
like a child to a parent when things get rough,
when routines fail and muscles waste. 

I hesitate, recoil, cower; skin so thin 
these cold water blades could spill these guts 
for waiting gulls and wash away this name.

I am caught like the Sun, falling 
and hoping to rise again, the horizon watched 
from a base of arched feet, soft soles and toes 

exposed to the hidden sharpness of shadows. 
And though these whispered sea breezes 
with caresses would show the way, 

for that bastard time waits not for me,
until I learn to surrender, immerse this body, 
allow these legs to float and lay back this head, 

could I ever take in the whole of the sky?

2020 top 5, Poem, Poetry

Number 3 – Amanda Huggins

Congratulations to Amanda who not only won the Saboteur Award for best poetry pamphlet in 2020 but also made it into our top five at number three with two poems from this wonderful award winning book.

The Names of Seaweed and
Collective Nouns for Birds

When I saw Da’s salt-licked boots,
frayed cap tossed over the peg,
I’d throw down my satchel,
punch the stiff latch
and crash through the scullery,
knowing he’d be
hauling coal from the cellar,
cheeks smudged with black dust,
strangely clumsy out of water.

The tug of the tide left him breathless
when he stayed too long on the shore,
and he lived among us only half-listening
to our land-locked talk,
always waiting to set sail again.

Sea child, he called me,
his slip of a fish,
as we dived down deep
to the coral beds
where mermaids sang
and jellyfish danced in puffball skirts.

Mam hoped he would turn his back on the tiller,
be coaxed ashore to the herring sheds,
be anchored down by kipper and creel.
Yet Da would never trade his fins for feet.

And when I lie awake on summer nights,
the last of the light
holding out in the western sky,
I hear him recite the names of seaweed
and collective nouns for birds.

In dreams I’m deafened
by a clamour of purple claw,
lured by a charm of oyster thief,
double-crossed by a deceit of devil’s tongue,
chased by a scold of landlady’s wig,
outwitted by a gaggle of dabberlocks.

Then at dawn he slides beneath the waves,
drowning with the names still on his tongue,
leaving me alone once more
to run aground without him.

Chris Clarke-with-an-e

I see you by the bar at Amy’s wedding,
an almost-stranger in your married skin,
much taller than I’d thought you’d be:
my all grown up Chris Clarke-with-an-e.

The boy whose kisses stung my lips
with the tang of sherbet lemons,
sharpening my colours behind the vaulting horse.

‘You’re my bird for keeps,’ the love note said,
scrawled with a cheap dip pen
and smudged where you’d folded it too soon.

Now you call my name as I turn to go,
I feign surprise, blush as we gush our shy hellos
and you say I’m looking well.

Then we both walk away, suddenly unsure,
perhaps kept apart by things unsaid,
half-curious to know our different ending:
grown-up me and Chris Clarke-with-an-e.

The Collective Nouns for Birds by Amanda Huggins is available direct from the author, on-line from Maytree Press via the shop link below, Amazon and all good bookshops.

2020 top 5, Poem, Poetry

Number 4 – Rosalie Alston

We’re delighted to see that Rosalie’s poem, Heron, included as part of our Beautiful Creatures features as made the top five – congratulations Rosalie.


Through the train window
across water meadows
I see you again
so still in the grey
contours of air and water –
ghost, visitation and holy fool
hear silent prayers
in half-beat rhythms of driving rain
soft and alone
I see your shield of fog
I will cry out when you kill.

Rosalie Alston grew up in the countryside and now lives in the city.  She likes wandering around, writing poems and participating in community poetry groups.  Rosalie has facilitated writing opportunities for adopted young people in the South West. She has had poems about adoption and child migrants published in anthologies.

2020 top 5, Poem, Poetry

Number 5 – Ruth Taaffe

Congratulations to Ruth whose poem first featured way back in January and has been a favourite in the village throughout the year.


Past midnight. Paros, Greece. July
the sweetest month
to be alive, eighteen.
A dust-quiet street, a breather
from the dancing night

when a wavering man with white hair
came by us two
sitting as we were
on a bakery step closed
in between loaves and fishing
secretly for compliments
or catches with each other

he turned
unfocused to us
closer than breath
and said

“If you bottled what you have
between you now
and sold it as perfume
you’d make a fortune.”

I still remember your eyes
your name. Brown hands huge
slender, holding mine.
I keep this night bottled
and breathe it in from time to time.

Ruth Taaffe is from Manchester, UK and currently lives in Singapore where she is the Head of English at an International School. Ruth is an MA student of Creative Writing with Lancaster University and some of her poems have been published in the online journal Creative Writing Ink as well as in print in Acumen.