Narcissi in North Devon
gathering in your coteries
along the grassy hillocks and hedge-line banks
come from the eyrie of your under other worlds,
it’s your star-studded moment.
How you welcome me on my way
this stormy-day of wind-rage,
you wave breezily
like yellow-hatted Royals.
This is your path
way to find out who you are
we are your poem
moving your words along their way,
I came to you the wrong way round –
through the eyes of a wandering nomad poet,
noting your iconic status as golden textual hosts
and before that,
as floral Easter tributes in my childhood church.
I’d always known your story, but
there was disjunct between those who wrote your text
swayed by patriarchal ruse
in this place
you make your annual resurrection,
beckon me to witness your lift from the abyss.
Today, through the lens of past’s living myth
I live your presence.
When I turn back home
Hades will swoop,
draw you to the black holes of his subterranean world.
Tossed by gales and filthy rain
you’ll droop your dipping heads over the bank’s edge
onto the sodden road.
Some of you already shift your profile away from rising sun
shielding your frazzled face
by extending low against the hedge.
You give up too soon,
We have no time.
You need to warn
These are the strangest shadow times
I – and you – have ever known,
up in political space-city the know-alls
are arguing themselves to soporific sleep,
here in the south west’s nether lands
prevailing northerly winds
conspire with wittering trees to tsunami their malevolent ways,
wreck the roofs
topple the sheep.
I wonder if we will see you again
before he double-backs for us.
Julie Sampson has two poetry collections: Tessitura (Shearsman, 2014); and It Was When It Was When It Was (Dempsey and Windle), 2018. Her edition of Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems (Shearsman). was published in 2009. She was highly commended in The Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, 2019. Author website at https://www.juliesampson.com/ – Twitter at @julieEsampson Instagram at JulieEsampson/writtenindevon.
Today, in a slight change to our normal schedule, we celebrate Johanna Boal’s latest poetry pamphlet from Maytree Press.
There is so much to love about Johanna’s second collection of poems that it’s difficult to summarise in just a brief paragraph. Beneath joyful language were everyday objects mix seamlessly with images of the natural world personified there is a deep sense of nostalgia and understated sorrow from a writer at one with the order of life.
Available now direct from Maytree Shop
Gran lived in a terraced house
with a ten-foot garden but no grass.
The doghouse was hidden out of sight
behind the tin bin and the outhouse.
It was always the white line that got me —
the cleanest clothes line stretched across the garden
that looked like Gran had bought a new one with every fancy.
But she longed for blue or yellow —
the ones at Woolworths with matching plastic pegs
instead of the wooden ones that split apart
until she pushed the spring back in
with just the tip of her thumb.
She would wince but never moan.
Gran lived near the canal with the stink
of the brewery filling the air. The pegs
hung like pieces of driftwood on the line.
Gran never travelled far.
how alluring and mouth-watering.
Face perfect – blood-red full lips, black oval eyes
set out on the pale skin air – sedimentary rocks
thinned out from the sun like sun-kissed freckles.
Loose shale a harsh brow when I slipped, jumping,
shadows fashioned like mascara smudged Snowdon.
The jagged hair mixed with round feminine features
on your ridges. Wind blowing, frost biting, sun glaring.
Me, squinting at the rocks dropping away, death and beauty
edging the floor of the valley. Look – a reflection,
my face on the mountain in the fast-flowing river.
Oh Borth, you’ re a wild one!
Half in the maw of Cardigan Bay
Those houses like bunting
All strung out for the day.
As between mortar and pestle
Where the sea grinds the land,
Here rock becomes pebble,
And pebble becomes sand.
A Rufty-tufty little town
That lies like the Maginot line
At the end of the salt marsh
Where the sheep come in brine.
And the holiday makers
Run down to the sea.
And remember what it is like.
When they could just, simply be.
Bernard’s work has appeared in many publications including, Aesthetica Magazine and The Edinburgh Review. In 2017 a selection of his poetry ‘In Free Fall’ was published by Leaf by Leaf Press. In 2019 he won second prize in The Aurora Prize for Writing for his poem Manor Farm.
where the jetty meanders
in a high jumper’s roll
a pelican fills up the day
holding a reserve for tomorrow
a word it regurgitates to reflect
out of preening reminiscence
the savour of reliving
tastes of feeding again
while weary anglers return
singing of old regret
that good times are a harvest
pooling about in undefined circles
and knowing it can fly
wherever the fancy
or carefree wind takes it
slurps up a blue eye
an azure fisher flashed over
because it knows it can
James Walton was a librarian, a farm labourer, and mostly a public sector union official. He is published in many anthologies, journals, and newspapers. His collections include The Leviathan’s Apprentice 2015, Walking Through Fences 2018, Unstill Mosaics 2019,
and the about to be released ‘Abandoned Soliloquies’.
Forager for winter greens,
cock of the plot, with a strut
and a swagger that say
he’s bang up to date with the rent.
Fool in a three-colour cap, performing
his knockabout greenhouse routine,
attempting a comedy exit –
thud, thud – through a hard clear pane.
Refugee from the killing fields
out of town, where the shot drops like rain,
where he’s classed by every paying gun
as fine fair game.
Warrior with no comrades,
in subtle armour wrought by no hands,
his precious breast guarded
by a thousand discs of bronze.
Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared widely in magazines and have occasionally won competitions. His collections are ‘This Patter of Traces’ (Oversteps Books, 2014) and ‘Mapping’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018).