Two minute memoir

(This poem was published in Spelt Magazine issue 2)

This is all that happened:

Cows flowed home at dusk, fit to burst – the farmer winked and cussed, chewed gum. The milkman delivered every-other-day. There was a paperboy, chip van, mobile library, mobile shop. On Saturdays I groomed horses and waxed tack for free because I loved that horsey smell, needed to be kept busy. My mother cleaned, my mother cooked, sometimes she shouted get your head out of that book, but I didn’t, and my Dad drove combines, milk floats, bread vans. He chopped wood, spruced himself up to call bingo in the social club, two little ducks, quack, quack, but I was too shy to shout house or line, could’ve won the hamper, but never told. And it was so cold the ice made patterns on the inside. The fields stank, then grew then burnt, and there were sparrows, endless sparrows. The coal-man came, the rent-man, the vicar. I spoke to tom cats, wood pigeons, doves. Some men went mad with loneliness – there was murder, tragedy.  I rode imaginary horses, saw foxes snared, kittens drowned, ducks mauled, watched the trains pass by three fields away, the colourful freight, wondered where it was headed. There were cinnabars, newt bellies, cowslips – an abundance of yellow. There were women called Betty and Brenda and Violet. A farmer let us fish – said, something for the village kids. There were swallowed hooks and bleeding gills and heads smashed in. On Christmas Eve we went carolling, ate warm mince pies in big houses, felt blessed. And love came down in secret spaces behind the bus shelter, between hedges, under bridges. There were meat hooks and orchards, scrumping, shotguns. Everyone knew who my father was. Gran’s house smelled of vinegar, chips, Player’s No.6, she had pockets full of fruit pastilles, wine gums. She never left the village, most haven’t left the village, the village won’t leave me.

This is how it is.

Autumn walk

(Published in Hencroft Hub –}

I’m back in the copse where we found inkcaps, turkey tails, amethyst deceivers

where you showed me elf cups on a rotting branch, and earthballs

ballooning out between the leaves which kept falling and falling.

Where you knelt, damping your fists, inflating your lungs to capacity

with that dull air. I pointed out berries overhead arching from tree to tree,

ripe red holly, leafless white bryony wound round lichened trunks

but you wouldn’t budge, said there was

no time for looking up.  


I’ve returned alone to the track we walked

and have promised myself I won’t kneel even though I know

there are waxcaps and brittlegills, and the litter’s alive with decay

and detritivores. I know it’s beautiful, this constant recycling

but for now I can only cope with the source – a weak sun stretched through oak

and beech, horizontal rays finding paths between these ever-shedding trees

which look solid at a distance, even though they’re made

of endless breaking parts.

Pictures of trees

Every day I take pictures of trees and post them for you.

Maybe you’ve seen my Ivy-trunked Oak with the Sun

Falling at Thirty Degrees? Sometimes I lean against it

for ages to think about you, search the knotted

branches for whichever bird is singing and wish

I could send that as well because I expect you

need birdsong more than me right now

and I’m spoilt for solace with all these trees.

Try hard to remember the woods but know

that the woods are still woods without you.

Bluebells still break, and the air is

green with spring.

(This poem was published in Porridge magazine, issue 5, 2020)


(This poem was shortlisted in the Gloucestershire Poetry Society 2020 Open Poetry Competition)


It wasn’t much of a herding

Robert on his bike with a stick from the hedge

but the cows rolled home anyway, white-eyed

and manic, their rubber mouths dripping.

They lowed and shat, swung their udders

around bends, we thought they might topple.

All day on pasture, cropping and chewing

grass peppered with vetch, butter-cupped yellow

the bee heavy clover – and some grazed the hedge

took dog rose and elder, smacking their tails

against their fly-speckled legs. We felt pity and fear

skirted the edge with our heads bowed down

heard them heave and snort, paw up the ground

kept telling ourselves that we weren’t scared of cows.

In the cowshed at dusk

subdued in their cubicles, chewing the cud

we found maps on their backs, the quiver

of continents as they shifted their flanks

internal eruptions, acres of gas being farted

and belched. And sometimes we helped – spread straw

from the stack to soak up the piss, but there was always

the risk of a backward kick, still their jaws turned

and saliva dripped, and their udders kept filling

but they never got milked until morning. 

We watched the farmer twist on the silvery cups

relaxed to the moan of the pump, sensed the let down

as each cow was drained, made light,

ready to race to the meadow again.

Emptying his Pockets in Autumn

(This poem was long-listed for the Paper Swans Single-poem Competition 2020 judged by Wendy Pratt. See link below to read the competition e-book)


His stick-sharp

tissue-tangled pockets

plumply stuffed with rusty feathers

maybe pheasant – did he find them in the wood

as the twigs broke underfoot? Now he sleeps, leafy crisp

and tightly tucked, blanket-weighted, bobbing out of dreams

on a wren song, on a jackdaw, with the buzzards turning circles

but in these pockets, see his conker-shelled treasure.


And a sweet wrapper, rolled shut – was it eaten in the wood

with the pheasants, undercover, an on-task reward

soil-scuffed and savoured? My bronze topped boy

– no one told me you’d been good.

Helicopters, ash or maple? Tightly woven

teasel-headed, how I scrump his silent moments

unpick ruby haws and rose hips

pocked-sized prizes, precious

remnants of a day.


Click to access Single-Poem-Winners-2020-ebook.pdf




So early this year she

announces to nobody but a blackbird

who rattles his response. Candlemas bells and not

even Christmas. Crouching and wind-curved, she tilts a milky bud

towards her, half-blind, tight-lipped, silent in the leaf-strewn mud.

No longer seeking hope or the promise of spring, she considers

picking one, taking it in – to disprove her mother’s foreboding

of flowers for the dead. Besides, she doesn’t fear anymore, no,

sees nothing to dread from endless slumbers, snug in a clay bed.

February fair-maids, dingle-dangles, dewdrops, death’s flower.

Granny’s schneeglöckchen growing greenest of green, ringing in

spring, but this soon – with autumn leaves unscorched by frost,

unsucked by worms? Winter’s not winter anymore

she mutters, then squints at the sky, waiting

for the blackbird to offer

his reply.


(This poem was shortlisted for the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival Poetry Prize 2018, judged by Alison Brackenbury – who said she loved my blackbird!)