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!)