Cows

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

Cows

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

 

Schneeglöckchen

snow

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!)