Featured poet | Jenny Hammond

A founder member of The Leopard Stanza Group in Stoke-on-Trent, I am married with two sons, a daughter and seven-and-three quarter grandchildren (number eight is expected very soon).

I was educated in Bristol before studying at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London. After qualifying, I lived in St. Andrews, Scotland, working in hospitals in Fife before moving to Staffordshire where, for the next 25 years, I worked as a GP partner in a Group Medical Practice in Crewe.

 

I started writing poetry six years ago and retirement has enabled regular visits to Crete, the inspiration for many of my poems.

A successful Stanza group such as ours enables the sharing of ideas, constructive criticism, encouragement, learning and development, as well as making new friends, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Jenny Hammond

CLEMENTINE

Grown in a land
of blue skies
where your evergreen mother
delivers a harvest
the colour of sun as it sets
between the reds and yellows.

Sweet citrus,
I peel back your skin,
divide segments packed
with succulent promises,
savour the sunshine.

HISAKO

I emerge half-dreaming,
then drift
to cherry blossom,
an empty number grid,
syllables for counting,
haiku, kimono, sudoku.

Bad dreams fade.
I swim the air,
float, search,
and when I find her, bright
beneath her favourite tree,
she opens her arms,
smiles that oriental smile
to torture my waking.

Jenny read these poems at The Leopard on 29th November – the following have been published or accepted by various poetry magazines.

INTRUDERS

Designed to zing, this dappled paradise
accepts the climbing sun, as boots crunch
into virgin silence, where eucalypts
on jigsaw-puzzled trunks infuse the air.
Cicada rhythms rise to grate the day,
a clumsy parrot raids the banksia flowers
and unseen birds disturb the canopy.

Spikes and fronds, coarse grass and spindly climbers
compete in umpteen shades of green, and stumps
licked black by greedy, fiery tongues stand naked
in the lushness. The unfamiliar
becomes familiar, until — stand still —
shapes rustle close as kangaroos emerge
then swiftly disappear to shadowed depths.

But, when the kookaburras come, in cackling
gangs to mock with almost human cries, like
crazy laughter from a lock-up where
the poor, mad souls exist, they seem to shout
“Get out, go home,” and so the strangers turn,
reluctant in retreat, leaving the Bush
in vibrant mood to sizzle in the heat.

Published in Purple Patch 124

LAST FRIDAY IN HANLEY

At last — no shoppers, heads down, buttoned up,
in a tight-lipped effort to tick off lists
and catch the next bus home;
only Mr. Whippy waiting for custom
and people dressed for summer strolling
through the plant market in its bustling brilliance,
like a far-away bazaar.
Uncluttered sun warms paving stones,
slowing the pace, smoothing tensions,
encouraging folk sitting on the steps of The Potteries Centre
to linger a little longer.
Even the heroin addict outside M & S
smiles weakly through her craving,
her mangy dog wags his tail
and the man selling The Big Issue looks happy.
So I think, “No need to leave yet,” and pause to listen
to the clarinettist in Adidas shorts,
jazzing up The Square.

Published in Quantum Leap 52

VIEW FROM FLOOR 13

From his eyrie, eagle-eyed, the stranger
in the President Hotel looks down,
where Lilliputian streets gaze up, with
tiny Toy Town buildings edged along them.

And tree tops waft, as air ascends
from hot-plate pavements, where commuters stride,
side-walking like tin soldier ants, to timed
assignments, stressing out the day.

An idle bungy jump springs tall among
the dot-dash flashings of brash neon signs,
where Dinky cars reverse in parking lots
and bus roofs move between the painted lines.

Giant billboards advertise Sofrana,
Atrium on Elliot, Rifleman.
It’s Auckland beckoning, so down he goes,
to melt into the throbbing of her heart.

Published in Quantum Leap 54

SAMPLERS

She settles on the window seat where light
is best, head bent, choosing the threads to sew
their cross-stitch names, their dates, their epitaphs.
Each stitch upon the canvas of their lives,
beneath the blur of tears, becomes a word.
Each word is sewn with all the love she had
not time to give before her two sons died —
denied the chance to minnow-fish the brook,
to gather conkers ready for the game,
to watch the girls in pinafores grow up
and maypole dance next to the chestnut tree.
She puzzles why the Lord had this in mind
and prays the text in truth will come to be —
these words embroidered writ to soothe mankind.

Published in Purple Patch 127

CRETE IN AUGUST

Mountains swelter, distance shimmers,
earth desiccates where dead flowers
linger, seeds dispersed.

Grasses dry from green to brown,
gusted by hot wind, eddying dust,
thermalling upwards where the buzzards glide.

As heat crescendos to a cauldron,
cicadas rasp from forte to fortissimo
and lizards bask on basalt, pianissimo.

Midsummer sunshine searing
like chilli-pepper salsa,
thirst-making, sweat-breaking,
roasts baking torsos,
burns soft soles on searing sand,
and scorches unrelentingly
this terracotta hotspot
simmering in the Libyan sea.

Published in Quantum Leap “Five By Five” collection

ART DECO NUDE

Just look at me posing — a bronze on a stand,
my chin tilted upwards, a rose in my hand,
my arms reaching outwards, stretched up on tip-toes,
my lips sweetly pouting, my neat little nose,
my breasts pertly sprouting, hair bobbed in a style
that’s top-trendy fashion and “in” for a while.

I’ve lived in smart mansions, I’ve lived in a shed,
an attic, a packing case, under a bed.
Been ogled and fondled, caressed and admired,
rejected, neglected yet seldom desired,
displaying my body with taste, never rude,
curvaceous, vivacious, an Art-Deco nude.

Until I was put in an auction last week,
as an item collectors were eager to seek,
and the bidding was fierce for lot seventy-three —
the “desirable object” I happen to be.
I feel very grand, though my knees have gone weak,
for in eighty-two years I’ve become an antique!

Published in Quantum Leap “Rhyming Poetry” collection

ALONE

She called him Riczard.
If you wake early you may see him
somewhere in the village,
on the track to the olive groves
or in the maquis-covered mountains.
Wearing boots, shorts, a shirt,
his Slavic features shaded
by the brim of his hat,
a walking pole in each hand,
he strides alone.
You might sense his sadness
and imagine his memories —
a ravaged homeland, its history;
and Anna, the mother he never knew,
who let him go
and stayed behind
in the Warsaw Ghetto
seventy years ago.

Published in Aspire 7

FOUND

In childhood, his character
tumbled out
like a waterfall in spate,
each droplet sparkling
with the joy of existence,

until the waters of adolescence
swept him into manhood,
where expectations,
reaching targets,
striving to achieve,
stifled his spirit.

Afraid of becoming lost
in a stagnant pool,
he tossed away the years of everybody else
and in old age
began to peel away the layers
towards the core where finally
he found himself again.

Published in Aspire 7

SUMMER SOUNDS

Then — a push mower striped the lawn
with a forwards and backwards swish,
brooms brushed, shears clipped,
a blackbird pinked
at the stalking cat,
sparrows chirped,
and children played
hop-scotch, hide-and-seek,
jumping through skipping ropes,
voices shrilling.

Now — our motor mowers,
rotor Flymos,
whizzing strimmers,
plug-in trimmers,
vie with garden vacs
muffling birdsong,
ruffling summer,
while, in his room,
connected to the world wide web,
a schoolboy plays alone.

Published in Aspire 8

REMEMBER THE LITTLE THINGS

Treading water with the lawyer from Prague,
discussing Alice in Wonderland and Cheshire cheese.

Cheeping sparrows outside the bakery,
pecking sesame seeds. The smell of fresh bread.

The baker singing to his parrot,
its head cocked, listening.

The laughter when we strove
to save the hot loaves from falling

and when I paid and said, “Oriste”
the baker said, “Bravo.”

The herby smell of mornings
and moth-attracting perfumes of the night.

A kingfisher blue-streaking out to sea.
Terrapins piggy-backing on a rock.

The sound from hidden goats.
The wind-clack of bamboos.

A toad picked out by torchlight.
The nocturnal wooing of the frogs.

Last night’s moon submitting
to the cockerels.

The young stranger who held my hand
across the muddy floor of the Melidoni cave.

A sunflower beside a tombstone.
Children waiting for the school bus.

Published in Purple Patch 128

CATHEDRAL

Orion gazes down, sporting his belt,
with Rigel at his foot and Betelgeuse
in red upon his shoulder, while Sirius
in Canis Major smiles above the spire.

Those nameless men with Magna Carta memories
laid the foundations of this great church where
Bishop Osmund from Old Sarum lies and
William Longespée, half-brother to the king,
sleeps beside the long-forgotten gentry.

Artisans of Wiltshire have learnt their trade
from stonemasons who passed their knowledge on.
They still use claws, chisels, pitchers, punches,
and mallets made from applewood, to dress

and carve the limestone into finials,
pinnacles, figures to stand in niches,
grotesque gargoyles grinning from the corbels —
sculpting in perpetual evolution.

Accepted for publication in Purple Patch

M6 DANDELIONS

In Eddie Stobart’s world
burnished by moonlight,
dandelion clocks picked out
by headlamps’ glare
return to shadow,
parachutes ticking to
wind-snatch freedom.

Cats’ eyes gleam
in red and green
marking lanes.
Night brims with
juggernauts in convoy
following schedules,
tied to timetables.

While M6 dandelions
sink taproots, gild verges,
tempt insects, transform
flowers to seed heads;
until, on wind-chime day,
their umbrellas break away,
drift the air, land, begin to grow.

Accepted for publication in Purple Patch

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About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
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