Composting

 

Old meat attracts rats. It should be destroyed.
The rest’s good for mulch. Here’s your smile,

its sunburst the day we planted the beans.
Remember the runners, the way they tendrilled

the poles, how they waved at us? Last week
I cut them, scissored their stems

into wiry handfuls, the right size for rotting.
There’s more. Onion skins, courgette stems,

chilli seeds: meals we shared, plum stones
discarded by friends, the aroma of citrus,

a lingering of coffee grounds. Endless teabags,
the finings of silent, companionable breakfasts;

the peel of our Christmas satsumas.
And under the lid, look – celebrations of worms.

 

• This poem first appeared in The Linnet’s Wings.

Swimming lesson

We’re floundering, learning properties of water:
the way plastic swims into the food chain,
bulky in albatross bellies, broken in guts
of small birds: battered by waves,
seasalt, by the sun’s bleaching.

Bottle tops, Barbie shoes, lighters, toy soldiers:
the gyre gulps them all, swills and gargles them
smaller and smaller. Suspended solutions
of Lego, piled up in the organs of fish.
Once the colour has gone no-one sees.

We’re counting the grains. Five trillion pieces
of plastic bags, jerry cans, spring water bottles
float in the oceans. We’re filling our faces
with containers of bleach, washing up liquid,
hair products, makeup remover. We want to die clean.

 

• This poem first appeared in issue 62 of The Interpreter’s House

Runnymede

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Life washes up in water meadows: twigs,
silt swirled downstream, common toads,
reed warblers, wagtails, landed barons.

Flotsam gathers. Laws, rights, privilege;
contingencies of weather, rainfall, eddyings,
bursting banks. Men seal settlements

in wax. Inscribe their names in torrents. Set rules
to curb the jockeying of jackdaws, magpies’
thefts. Raise barriers, useless against tides

and surges, wave regulations balefully
as white flags. Trespassers
will be prosecuted. Floods contained. They order

waves to back down, rivers to dry up.
Here is their parchment and portcullis,
their Keep Out sign. The bench, the bar,

They Shall Not Pass. Except where reed-beds
absorb flows, embrace each beached arrival,
offer bulrushes, alluvium, kingfishers.

 

• picture from The National Archives. This poem has also appeared in Well Versed.

Home run

 

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Like a cat, I beat with sweat
the bounds of home: it is the stride
on flagstones, gravel, city road;

it’s the capacity of lungs
to hoist tired legs up to the moor;
the lift of stinging eyelids

to observe goldfinches flurry
from a dry stone wall, watch swallows
dart between taut wires;

it’s to grasp these sheets of sky
and stuff my vision with the hills:
own none of it at all, and call it mine.

This poem was published in Clear Poetry, October 2015

Winnats Pass

Winnats Pass

Time is chipped enamel, a grinding
of molars, the appearance of cavities.
We are sieved through its jaws.

In front of its teeth there are only
our tongues, which grow moss.
Our eyes lick the cones of the hills.

The wind tunes the gaps in the gully,
sets our incisors on edge. This brokenness
goes back forever. Old jaws fail to clamp;

their outcrops roll in loose sockets.
Rocks have a trick, here, of sloughing off
solidity, shrugging their shoulders.

They let us pick through their leavings:
rowan trunks, harebells, brachiopods,
coral. The land lies: tosses out

waves, ancient cockles, serves up
a fish stew of geology. We pass
time. Again, we’re underwater.

 

Winnats Pass won the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry competition in April/May 2015. Picture by Alex Donohoe used under Creative Commons licence.

The defiance of trees

Always buddleia. As if you could demolish

half a city and leave butterflies, a wasteland

painted purple. A child’s plastic seat, bright

pink among the scrub. And a harvest:

 

rose hips, blackberries, first fruits of destruction.

They banked the earth up at the roadside, bits

of gardens mashed together. Look, brassica

survived. Here’s borage. A woman grew that once.

 

Three houses huddle, the outer two tinned up,

steel shutters draped with England flags. Here

is the man who would not move. Everything

around is flattened. Defiance looks like this.

 

Defiance looks like this, too: a park

emerging from a sodden triangle of grass.

Kids playing where folk warned them to keep clear

of the pub they called the Blood Tub.

 

Two rows of silver birches. Yarnbombed,

bunting stretched between them, wildflowers under.

Drummers, singers, laughter. This town

nearly died. Today they’re planting trees.

 

 

This poem was awarded joint third place in Sheffield Hallam University’s annual poetry competition. It has also been published as part of the Long View project.