all our houses

Alison Brackenbury is a poet and broadcaster. Her work has been widely published and is often read across many radio stations such as Radio 3, 4, 6 and Shropshire Radio, where she often appears with Genevieve Tudor on the Sunday folk show, and other regional radio shows.

Alison comes from a long line of domestic servants and farm workers. She won a scholarship to Oxford, where she studied English literature. In 1977 she moved to Gloucestershire and worked for twenty-three years in her husband’s tiny metal finishing company. Since her retirement in 2012, she has given readings at many festivals and poetry events.

Alison received the Eric Gregory Award in 1982 and the Cholmondeley Award in 1997. She is a much loved and well respected poet and Thorpeness, published this year by Carcanet, is her eleventh collection.

All Our Houses ...

Alison says:

‘All Our Houses’ is a theme that can include all the homes of one lifetime, such as Dickens’ early home in Doughty Street, and my own ‘house of childhood’. It can cover the changing way we use our houses, as shown in Bogin’s and Ingram’s poems about their own homes in the pandemic. It can explore one home’s relationship with the landscape of work around it, as in my account of the small house crouching beneath the shepherds’ limestone ridge, in my poem ‘On Horkstow Hill’. And, finally, there is the intense longing for any shelter, ‘Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way’, which Padraic Colum describes and which so many people must be feeling in 2022.

The House

It was the house of childhood, the house of the dark wood,
four-square and safe. It was the second house
at least, to bear its name.  The first was burnt: was charred
foundations, hidden by a timber yard.

I knew this in my dream: the house was same
and solid.  All its yews, church trees, were strong
red wood of generations.  As we came
out in the dusk sight heaved, house, orchard, gone.
Cold in the trembling grass we shivered there.
On open hillside, to the first stars’ stare

I watched dark, unsurprised.  I could remember
the bombers roaring low above the trees
to reach their high drome, though the war was done.
The house had strained and crumbled.
                                                              There is only
                     the old magic, forced out in new ways.
Hard through the dream’s cold spring I raised
My house again. My bones and my heart ache
In every joist.  The altered rooms are filled
With lovely light: the only house
Which kills in falling, which you must rebuild –
                      In new wood boxes, apples there
All winter breathe out sweetness, in cold air.

by Alison Brackenbury from Gallop: Selected Poems, Carcanet, 2019

On Horkstow Hill

House-moving was called ‘flitting’ and
your flitting crossed half Lincolnshire
until your shepherd husband saw
the best show flock, on Horkstow Hill.

‘Well, Fred is married to the sheep.’
You had your house and men to keep
but could be sometimes lonely, while the deep
horse chestnut shadows swept the sill.

I came to visit for a day.
Red conker flowers blew past your gate
where Toots, the old dog, waited, chained
by the back door, too stiff for hills.

The morning washed us like a dream.
I must have read. You chopped, boiled, cleaned,
scoured pans, quick cook. Small windows flared,
late summer sun soared on the hill.

‘We’ll have a walk’, you told me then.
‘Go up the hill and find the men.’
You clamped your hat on like the Queen.
Your village slept, one street. Yet still

women came out, to nod to you,
to ask about my life. I knew
I was your prize show lamb. But soon
we caught the wind and climbed the hill.

Although I wanted most to keep
close by the men, the half-clipped sheep,
I saw broad Humber shine beneath,
and small heartsease, at corn’s edge, spill.

I never realised you were old.
You marched back, cooked huge tea. In folds
muddied as love, the Humber rolled
as we climbed Horkstow Hill.

by Alison Brackenbury from Thorpeness, Carcanet, 2022

Charles Dickens at home

Bombs, cranes made his grand houses
mere rubble under feet
but not their narrow first door,
48 Doughty Street.

Kind Catherine clasped the baby
Dickens set up his desk.
He rattled sherry bottles.
She counted out the eggs.

The basement stairs could break knees.
Her belly twitched, stretched sore.
Charles frowned across the garden
Oliver asked for more.

Slowly, Kate shuffled menus,
sweet salvage of her life.
‘What Shall We Have for Dinner?’
He wrote ‘Is She his Wife?’

Spring Soup, then Vermicelli.
The hospital fund. Grey curls.
Oxtail, Mock Turtle. Hare Soup.
The house for fallen girls.

His favourite child was Katey,
who painted, laughed, dared turn
to snatch the frail reading desk
her father chose to burn.

Behind his tallest, last house,
with Catherine packed away
he lit his bundled letters.
‘I have no more to say.’

The profile of his actress
shows tension, sharp-lipped grace,
not Catherine’s muddled ringlets
not unlike Katey’s face.

‘We live in all our houses.’
ash whispers to the sleet.
Lime buds tap bedroom windows,
upstairs, in Doughty Street.

Alison Brackenbury from Thorpeness, Carcanet, 2022

 

Notes

In 1851, under the name of Lady Maria Clutterbuck, Catherine published a book of meal plans: What Shall We Have for Dinner

Is She his Wife? is the title of an early play by Dickens.

Dickens had a desk built for his reading tours. When illness forced him to stop, he planned to burn this.

Catherine and Charles Dickens had ten children. Dickens separated from his wife in 1858. In the last years of his life, he had a secret relationship with a young actress, Ellen Ternan.

‘I have no more to say’ is the final sentence of a letter from Dickens to his publishers, Evans and Bradbury. He quarrelled with them over their support for Catherine.

Alison Brackenbury

Poet and broadcaster

Chosen by Alison ...

Three poems by Nina Bogin, Lesley Ingram and Padraic Colum

Spring Cleaning

My neighbour with a rag in her hand
leans out of her upstairs window
to say hello and see how I’m faring.

I’m checking my mailbox. She’s washing
her window-panes. I should do the same.
We have time on our hands, and yes,

we’re both fine, on our quiet dead-end lane.
Our houses will be spotless
by the end of the quarantine –

floors waxed, front steps
scrubbed for no-one but ourselves.
The east wind has also pitched in,

sweeping the sky to an immaculate blue,
whitewashing the facades,
stirring the cherry flowers

into storms of pink.
Blackbirds sing from the tree-tops.
The light is so splendid

we could weep –
with no hope
of a miracle,

just old rags,
water and vinegar
and windows that sparkle.

by Nina Bogin, published in PN Review Vol 47 No 3, January – February 2021. Reprinted here with kind permission of the poet.

 

Watching

I sleep, now, with open curtains
like I did as a child watching
Orion on those breath-tight
sleep-lost nights, watching
the belt, the sword, the silver
shield pushing, pushing
the sky past my window’s frame
forever holding the scorpion at bay.

Nights are again breath-tight and sleep-lost.
The stars are missing, only the moon
blurs by. Age has become a blindfold.

We are sleeping in separate rooms.
But I can still feel your breath
on the nape of my neck, your hand
warm on my hip, your absence
my shield.

Lesley Ingram, published on Manchester Metropolitan University’s website, Write Where We Are Now.

 

Alison’s third choice is An Old Woman of the Road by Padraic Colum which you can read ~ here. The article also includes a couple of readings of the poem.

 

Our House by Madness

Like the home in the song, this is not a quiet track! But, despite its jaunty wit, it is full of affection – and longing.

Our readers' choices

This monthly anthology ~ our Poetry Breakfast ~ is very much a joint effort: it wouldn’t happen without you sending in your chosen poems on the given theme. All suggestions very welcome!

A poem I remember from long ago!

 

I Remember, I Remember

I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built, 
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now, 
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky: 
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from heav’n
Than when I was a boy. 

by Thomas Hood, from Poets of the English Language, Viking Press, 1950

 

I also came across this poem Homemaker by Mary Meriam which struck me with its originality. You can read it ~ here

Anna Dreda

Wenlock Books Events

Our House by Crosby, Stills and Nash

I’ve always loved this song, and as a long-time Joni Mitchell fan I rather enjoy the video, too!

Zoom!

    It begins as a house, an end terrace
in this case
    but it will not stop there. Soon it is
an avenue
    which cambers arrogantly past the Mechanics’ Institute,
turns left
   at the main road without even looking
and quickly it is
    a town with all four major clearing banks,
a daily paper
    and a football team pushing for promotion.

   On it goes, oblivious of the Planning Acts,
the green belts,
    and before we know it it is out of our hands:
city, nation,
    hemisphere, universe, hammering out in all directions
until suddenly,
    mercifully, it is drawn aside through the eye
of a black hole
    and bulleted into a neighbouring galaxy, emerging
smaller and smoother
    than a billiard ball but weighing more than Saturn.

    People stop me in the street, badger me
in the check-out queue
    and ask “What is this, this that is so small
and so very smooth
    but whose mass is greater than the ringed planet?”
It’s just words
    I assure them. But they will not have it.

by Simon Armitage, from Zoom! by Simon Armitage, Bloodaxe 1987. This poem is reprinted here by kind permission of the publisher, Bloodaxe Books.

Janet Reece

Writer: Twitter: @JReecewriter Instagram: jreecewriter

East Lambrook

Velvet curtains drape against the rain   warm chairs crowd round a fire   the clock
plucks slow time    You’re reading   I’m sitting   album on my knees   your mother’s

leaning in   pointing out your childhood    Each photo’s a place within this place
of love    I recognise the white-framed squares   greenish now

wet costumes on a tiny beach              your dog caught in a cuddle
                                   an eccentric line of relatives
three children on a tractor    a picnic on rugs on heather    you in plaits school uniform
five children strung out along a cliff path  heather
                                                           you amidst the games on a lawn mown for childhood

You’re there   I’m here copying handstands   paddling in your pool   contesting
the rules of French cricket   chalking hopscotch on your granny’s path

I recognise those boys   their brown Startrite sandals    I know about running   tumbling
grass down necks    about egg sandwiches    dilute orange squash   chocolate cake

Under the table  our grass-stained legs swinging in unison 

by Liz Lefroy from Mending the Ordinary, Fair Acre Press, 2014. 

From My Window

I love to watch rooftops, the way slate darkens in a storm,
rain washes down valleys and lead-flashed channels to be caught
in guttering, while cast-iron downpipes swallow hard.            

I love the way the church tower looks down on chimney pots
which huddle eight at a time on their stacks,
its four pinnacles bracing themselves for lightning.

I love to watch this town become an island, 
the narrow pavements clear like riverbanks,
the tang of dust and piss and oil are dampening down.           

I love the way the sound of grumbling tyres becomes
the sound of spray, each car a small-sailed dinghy,
a Doppler swish of people passing through.                           

When it’s over, pigeons re-emerge. They’re carrying twigs, perch
on ridges and dormer windows, repaint clay tiles with white splashes.
And all the while, the TV aerials point east.

by Liz Lefroy

Rooftop Garden

I have seen the plane come into leaf from here,
the lavender open its heads to the sun,
seeds push up to find themselves in pots.

The broken hydrangea has redirected its flat leaves –
they catch the light and rain, split the wind,
and its flower heads might yet be pink or blue.

The rosemary bush looks as though
it might survive another coming into bloom,
a blackbird drinks from a nearby plate.

The hosta’s leaves are uneaten at this altitude –
no slug chances the vertical climb from the courtyard.
I’m resting up, waiting for a delivery of geraniums.

by Liz Lefroy

Liz lefroy

Poet

I am attaching one of my own for Alison’s session. I was inspired by a story, no doubt apocryphal, about a poor family who won a new house in a TV quiz show and the youngest child’s response to the presenter’s question of how much she was looking forward to moving in to her new home. She replied “Oh I have a home – I just want a house to put it in.”

Going home

It’s not a house I need.
Fields exist, whether wired
walled, hefted or hedged,
as does my home.

I am at home without feeling
the walls, windows, floors, doors.
Bricks and mortar
are just containers.

I don’t need them.

My home provides calm,
a respite, a refuge
from external storms,
false performance. I am safe.

This house is – for the moment – 
home. That may change.
Houses stay still –
my home can move.

by Bert Molsom

Bert Molsom

Apprentice Poet

The House that Wanted to be a Boat

The cottage slips a little each day,
closer to the cliff. We picture it as a boat,

drifting off in one piece as we carry
out spoons, china cups, and stand back.

It should leap into the void, skinny dip
like a woman realising she can dive.

Yet it slides slowly, glacial
pools of one man’s fingertips glossed

into skirting boards hold it back. Strands
of his hair fasten floorboards that keel

for our losses. Mother’s face is a gable,
wallpaper still hanging on, plaster ducks

on the wall pointing out all this space
on our backs. There is nothing to do

but stare as the roof tips its hat.
Bricks buckle up, and freefall.

by Angela Readman, from The Book of Tides, Nine Archers Press, 2016. Permission kindly given to include this poem from Jane Commane at Nine Arches, and from Angela Readman.

White Flag

Between us an Armada of sails
white flags pegged to the washing line
that lassoed the hook hammered into the mortar
splitting our terraced houses.

Gossip high walls
were freshly pointed
on our side alone.
We didn’t speak much or
see each other at the Miners’ Welfare library;
the corporation whitewash of our Methodist chapel
clashed with your Sunday Mecca Bingo bus trips.

Your gate stuck and snicked too loud.
Sometimes you sneaked through ours
to gather arms of left out washing
when the rain began to spit
to leave them in the wash house
with the wooden army of my toy soldier pegs.

But Mam said
She never puts them in the bag
and she always leaves the bloody line out.

by Steve Harrison.

Steve Harrison

Poet~in~Residence, Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

I’d like to offer Exile! Exile! by the wonderful Eavan Boland. You can read it ~ here

and my own poem ~

Nest

to snuggle to coorie doon to snoodle.
a half-world of care.

a gowpen of shoogling eggs
roofed by warm breast.

a weaving of twigs.

eaves studded with river-mud huts.

a precariousness in wind.
a responsibility of worms, sand eels, gnats.

a rock ledge with fifty thousand screams.
the heart of a hedge.
full stops in winter branches
each a basket of hope.

by Char March, from Full Stops In Winter Branches, Valley Press, 2018

Char March

writer ~ tutor ~ mentor ~ editor

I’d like to offer My Father Perceived  as a Vision of St Francis (for Brendan Kennelly) by Paula Meehan. It is from her collection Mysteries of the Home, published by Bloodaxe Books 1996. 

There is a video of Paula reading it which you can see ~ here. The recording is from the University College Dublin archives, and was recorded, I think, when she was Ireland’s Professor of Poetry.

Carol Caffrey

Actor and Poet

For the June theme, could I suggest these two poems, on the theme of American farmhouses:

House by Billy Collins from The Trouble With Poetry, Random House, 2005 – also in his new and selected poems Aimless Love, Random House, 2013 

and

Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser, from his new and selected poems, Kindest Regards, Copper Canyon Press2018. 

 

Both look at historical aspects of the buildings and people who may have lived there, which I thought might chime with Alison’s work. You can read the Billy Collins ~ here,  and the Ted Kooser ~ here

 

I’d also like to suggest two of my own ~

 

Polishing the Vicarage

Mondays, Mrs. Fleet in her pinafore,
headscarf, soft shoes. A routine for each week:
dining table, chairs, fire surrounds, the teak
sideboard, our upright piano, her law
that everything glistens before time for
elevenses, the wireless on  – she’d seek
the Home Service, in winter, warm her cheek
against Bakelite. Round the mats, the black floor
shone like a rink. Once, she used a tea towel
instead of a duster; polish-infused,
it hinted at church, candles, hard pews.
On Sundays, the velvet curtains drawn to,
we’d toast currant teacakes over hot coals,
eat on our knees, blow the ash off our shoes.

by Maggie Reed, first published in Pennine Platform

Barton

Matty Chapplehow’s Ford Capri backfires
as it hits the pothole down our back lane.

The lychgate squeaks, Dad’s cassock catches
on the grass that needs cutting again.

A pheasant gutters in the hedge, a curlew
lifts then falls, lifts then falls.

Mum cracks an egg into the flour
with a soft plumph. The hand-whisk whizzes.

My brother drops the soap in the cloakroom,
kicks it across the lino.

The pitter of beech nuts on the leaf litter,
the autumn smell of wellington boots.

Sing Something Simple on the wireless,
the warm smell of Bakelite, that Sunday feeling.

My father’s sermon-voice down the telephone,
each word louder than the next, the click of the receiver.

by Maggie Reed, not yet published

Maggie Reed

Poet

House

at a party    
to walk into that house in the evening light

and know it
as the house she should have lived in as a child
and want it for her own children

in its avenue of trees
three rooms high     three rooms deep   
with corridors and landings to run down

that day he cycled past
saw the for sale sign outside
and she did all the sums to afford the mortgage

and how it so became them all
allowed them space to grow tall

and how it became a witness
to the same late night arguments
at the kitchen table

and those times she craved to live alone   

all those times

it was the house that held her
it was the house that would not let her go

by Pauline Prior-Pitt, from Meeting the Stone, Spike Press,

Home

she tells them she is going home
this is your home they say
it’s been your home for fifty years

and she knows they are lying

where’s the canal bridge
curving over the lock gates

my tall brick house
with a gate in the wall
that leads to my garden

where is the pear tree
the pear tree I’m climbing

hanging upside down
on all those high branches

the dens I’m making
under the rhubarb   digging up
worms to fill my red bucket

where is my nightie
warmed on the fireguard
my cosy pink bed

and the cuddles  
the cuddles and kisses  
the whispered   night night
where is my mother   she shouts.

by Pauline Prior-Pitt, not yet published

Isolation as a House Guest     Day 120           

I used to think I was an early riser,
but she’s here when I wake up
staring me in the face like I can’t see her.

She leans on my shoulder when I’m writing,
imitates me on the phone, follows me

into the sitting-room, lies on the sofa
as if she belongs here, and she thinks
it’s alright to interrupt my reading.

I leave her behind when I go to the beach.

She doesn’t know how silver sand
curves for over a mile, how the sea
looks tropical, how no one else is here,

and I can stand at the edge of the waves,
breathing out to indigo on the horizon.

As soon as I get back she’s beside me,
when I take off my boots, when I hang up
my coat, when I wash my hands at the sink.

She opens the white wine well before six,
and makes me stay up until after midnight,
which I would never normally do.

No one seems to know how long
she will be staying, and I’m afraid to ask.

The wet windy grey days are the worst.

by Pauline Prior-Pitt, from Poems for the Year 2020, Shoestring Press, 2020

Pauline Prior-Pitt

Poet, Artist

I am fascinated by IKEA, the antithesis of my eclectic house. Trailing round with friends or family I have no desire to buy more than something small from the Marketplace. But I’m intrigued by the idea of this simple, ordered, strange-named, alternative lifestyle.

Nightfall in the Ikea Kitchen

Nightfall in the Ikea kitchen.
Even though the lights are left on
I feel the push of the wind’s deconstructions
Take the hull of the shed by storm.

Creak and strain of test and fault-finding
But here in the glow I am alone
Expected and consoled. Here is the notice board
Riddled with reminders and invitations,

Here are picture ledges and high cabinets
Kitchen trolley, drying racks
A sly shoe cabinet, fabric pocket-ties
A life so sweetly cupboard

I barely believe it is mine. Open
And another light comes on.
Here is the place where I begin again
As a twenty-three year old Finn

Taking keys of her first home.
I use space well here. I waste nothing.
The floor clock has shelves, the bed lifts up
And if I yield and sleep

I will become part of the storage system
Harbouring dreams and heat.
Everything is a little below scale
And therefore ample. Stuva, Dröma

Expedit, Tromsø, Isfjorden…
I rock in the peace of their names
Even as I mispronounce them
For this is nightfall in the one-bedroom

Model apartment’s kitchen
When everyone has gone home
And there is nothing left
But the Marketplace itself.

And say a child is born, no problem.
With a simple room-divider
I can create not only child storage
But also a home office

From which I will provide for us both.
Look, here is his football on the floor
And here a shelf where it may be stored.
His whole life is in these drawers.

Call him Billy and see him run.
When he grows up and moves out
Just take down the partition
To have, at last, my own space again.

Ten thousand times the wind has pushed the doors
But they have not opened yet.
Those cupboards. Stockholm. Yes, that green
Nature can never quite get.

by Helen Dunmore, from Counting Backwards:  Poems 1975-2017, Bloodaxe Books, 2017. This poem is included with kind permission of the publisher, Bloodaxe Books.

 

This next one is an amusing contrast to the Helen Dunmore poem …

The Cupboard

As for this muckle
wooden cupboard carted hither
years ago, from some disused
branch-line station, the other
side of the hill, that takes up
more room than the rest of us
put together, like a dour
homesick whale, or mute sarcophagus –

why is it at my place?
And how did it sidle
throughout the racked,
too-narrow door, to hunker
below these sagging rafters,
no doubt for evermore?

by Kathleen Jamie, from The Tree House, Picador, 2004. Reprinted here with kind permission of the poet.

Maureen Cooper

Reader's Retreat

For ‘All Our Houses’ ~ one we’ve had before: A Removal from Terry Street by Douglas Dunn. You can read it ~ here

Also, from the much-loved U.A. Fanthorpe:

Atlas

There is a kind of love called maintenance.
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it:

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
the money goes, which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living: which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing

To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers

My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice in the air,
As Atlas did the sky.

by U.A. Fanthorpe, from From me to you – Love Poems, by U.A. Fanthorpe and R.V. Bailey, Enitharmon Press, 2007. Reprinted here by kind permission of R.V. Bailey

and

My House, I Say

My house, I say. But hark to the sunny doves  
That make my roof the arena of their loves,  
That gyre about the gable all day long  
And fill the chimneys with their murmurous song:  
Our house, they say; and mine, the cat declares 
And spreads his golden fleece upon the chairs;  
And mine the dog, and rises stiff with wrath  
If any alien foot profane the path.  
So, too, the buck that trimmed my terraces,  
Our whilom gardener, called the garden his;
Who now, deposed, surveys my plain abode  
And his late kingdom, only from the road.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

This poem is in the public domain.

 

Andrew James

Here is an offering for ‘All Our Houses’ – Johnny and Hugo who inspired it are now in their late twenties!  The house was sold last year when I moved to London.

 

Invaders

They came, those infants, aged but three and one,
and claimed and colonised our house … our lives.
Johnny wanted everything at once –
the world explained in instant clear replies
to his endlessly recurring  “whys”?
He said, at 6 a.m. I cannot read but only look,
so, Granny, please wake up and read this book,
and Grandpa, play this game again,  again, again, again.

Hugo, a wordless conqueror, briskly crawled
like a small tank, remorselessly from room to hall
to stairs, till with contented smiles
he homed in where the fragile things were
stashed away, and maximum potential lay
for havoc.

Now they have gone. We wander round
the exhausted house, bereft. It’s quiet,
undisturbed, and sadly so are we.
But everywhere we see
a scattering of toys – a plastic hammer here,

some soldiers there – and over all
a tide of vivid grandparental joys
plus, underneath the cot,
One striped, enchanting mini ankle-sock.

by Morar Lucas, from Retrospective,  Cairns Press, 2017 (out of print)

 

Morar Lucas

I remember you mentioned that Alison Brackenbury would be covering poems about houses.  So I have dug out the list that we made from our local reading on the subject of  ‘House and Home’.  Actually, in the end, some of the poems didn’t really earn their keep and also, we tended to stick with human habitations and regretted not expanding out to birds’ nests, etc, but the poems that did work are: 

Home is so Sad by Philip Larkin, which you can read ~ here

Wind by Ted Hughes (not principally about houses, but such an astonishing poem, and it makes the point that even houses are fragile under the force of nature) which you can read ~ here

Any of the various poems from Grace by Esther Morgan, Bloodaxe, 2011

Rooms by Billy Collins, which you can read ~ here

Homeless by Vikram Seth, which you can read ~ here

Woman in Kitchen by Eavan Boland, which you can read ~ here 

Jenny Swann

The Skylight

          Somewhere our belonging particles
          Believe in us. If we could only find them.
          W.S. Graham – ‘Implements in Their Places’

It’s summer outside this winter house
with its fire in every room.
Two seagulls cross the skylight.
Yesterday it was snow-dust
they picked through, instead of sand
and the waves chose not to break.

The same light, in the long break
of ’69, visited this house.
We’d had our swim and the sand
stuck to us. We sat in this room,
said nothing, watched the dust
drift on its current of light,
had little in common but that light
which would see fit to break
throughout our lives, stirring old dust.

Each wave of sunlight then, in this house,
carries the two of us in that room,
carries our dust, our grains of sand.

                         *

Shaping a fish out of sand
you made it a race against the light,
the sea, the crowds… there was no room.
Build and break, build and break …
I followed you up to the house.
Our wet prints dissolved to dust
in the narrow lane.

Here, moondust.
I touched your palm, the dusty sand
felt precious.

Back inside the house

we played cards under the skylight,
I waited for the silence to break.

                         *

I have waited in so many rooms,
particles of this spinning room.
I have lived inside the dust
of wanting you, afraid to break
like the fish you shaped out of sand.

                         *

Two seagulls cross the skylight.
It’s summer outside our winter house.
There is room for a ghost or two on the sand.

                         *

That’s you, that’s me … dust in the sunlight.
We swim and break and drift about this house.

        
        by Paul Henry, from Ingrid’s Husband, Seren, 2007

Paul Henry

Poet

Thank you, as ever, to everyone who has contributed to this Poetry Breakfast anthology ~ I have loved visiting all our houses!  Thank you so much to Alison, for choosing a theme that brought forth these glorious poems.

Our next guest is the poet Jeff Phelps  who has chosen the theme ‘Between Places’. Jeff is an old friend from Wenlock Poetry Festival days and has been a long-time member of the highly respected Bridgnorth Writers Group.

There is no charge for these poetry blogs but they do take a huge amount of time. If you would like to show your appreciation by chipping in to my ‘coffee and paperback book fund’ you can do so here. If you don’t use Paypal you can email me for other ways to do this.

Thank you everyone, till next time …

Anna Dreda

Wenlock Books Events

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