Featured Poet Betsy Clewlow

The next Stanza session at The Leopard will be on Tuesday 24th July at 7.30pm. Admission free, all welcome.

Meanwhile, enjoy the poems of Leopard regular, Betsy Clewlow, our featured poet this month.

Betsy describes herself as follows:

Interested in almost everything except for the figure five and furtive colours, especially orange. Love most flora and fauna;  unreasonable fear of sharks and extremely wary of smug persons.  Hope to become the oldest female javelin thrower to still be achieving Personal Bests once I’m back up to reasonable fitness.

Betsy’s poems:


Forty lived in Alice’s drawers,
stuffed there uncomplaining.
Pension day a respite
from worm dust and blackness.

Her gin-maudlin talk as
she lifted us out
ran its mumbling course.
We stayed flatly indifferent.

For her in- camera life
we were familiar, vital.
Placed end to end,
a shiny , chosen family.

We never shrank from her
pill powdered, chip-paper
fingers, as we now
shrink from their claws.

House echoes find no Alice.
Slighted kin slat her drawers
into putrid Council maws
where we blow about, orphaned.


Up the Green-and-along-a-bit is where my safety lies,
up the Green-and-along-a-bit, away from cold knife-eyes.
The council workmen slashed a scar of red beneath my tree,
bruised grass coughs crumbly mould and gently cushions me.

Our new and creaky council house is thick with chunky smells;
the garden soil, “just lumps o’ clay”, or so my father tells
the man at number five, whose wife is foreign and who looks
like mistresses in films, swathed in satin frills and tucks.

But up the Green-and-along-a-bit is quite a different world;
the Green leads into a calming street where no abuse is hurled.
My mother doesn’t know the words which make her child her own,
so Helen offers her mum to me, on an extended loan.

Twelve-plus years of skipping now assist me through their gate,
a child drawn quick to kindness, (quite like a fish to bait).
I dodge past flowers on my way to ginger-cake and tea,
I’m in love, in love, in love, in love with a tissuey sweet-pea!

Nod, nod, nid-nod bobbing, their tendrils wind around
waste-pipes, netting, posts and canes, safe rooted in the ground.
The Docherty clan is rooted too, in Scottish hardy love
and smile to see my Beast of Chaos circling high, above.


Blackpool is changing from kaleido-scruff to kaleido-buff.
Have you seen her?
Spit, gum and gob- stucco’d pavements still
await their nightly parade of slurping uglies
and clacking heels of big-thigh’d shrieking girls
clad in wisps of pseudo- bridal or military wear.
All gorge chips, flaunt their crotch-less tights
and cunningly applied sex-hunt make-up ,
braving blister-pain from trekking in killer heels.
Sweaty men, pouring themselves in and out of
urine stained doorways, bars and women with no
thought of rubber, toothpaste or hesitation
sing old pop songs and call each other ‘legends’.
But Blackpool is changing.
Always puff-friendly, she is now newly buffed.
See the spoor of Variety underfoot on the Front
or take an ant’s view of the new ’ Walk of Faith.’
Higher still reward night eyes with a pulsing
perpendicular rainbow, its excitement
calls across the M55 “ I’m here, I’m here” to
ballroom dancers, children, or any of us
longing for candy-floss kitch and kaleidescope thrills.


Only leaners or uprights
stand next to Z who seems
male and spy-like as he
doubles back; not indecisive,
more controlled in purpose.

At least Z journeys.
Unlike controlling X who
planted, either kisses,
or bars all.

Baring all, dearest Y
until T caps shim’s * paroxysms,
draining surplus into U.

* shim – non-gender specific – poet’s own terminology – not as definite as trans-sexual.


My partner is dead.
Now is the time for comfort
so clothe me in the old spell
of murmur healing.
Let filial or friendly concern
stroke me with a lisping song
to dampen this drum,
smooth knotted veins
and close a teary mouth
as I trudge, brain-dead
and bowel-free, through
a pantomime of daily doings.


Liddicoat noted life as it happened;
noted the tangled growth of her garden,
led me to a sunken antique bath.
Watchful, she parted sweet feathers of grass,
Brushed past reaching rhubarb, then stopped.
Fat slime hid a curved cold sweep
Where toughened paws had slithered
And scrabbled for breath.
My scream tore air,
raced around the drowned enamel
then settled on its swollen spines.

Our legs broke laths of fruit
In futile escape.


When I’m old, you may hope to shunt me
to where life is lived round the edge of a room

but look through the window of one of those places
which cater for wizened, confused and sad faces,
to see people sunk in their gloom.

Don’t think I’ll sit in drill square precision,
watching a ‘box’, a prey to derision.
I’ll never fit in. I’ll put up a fight.
Ensure that I’ll look an incongruous sight!

My sequinn’d, false eye-lashed and bleach-headed frame
will sing the day long; and no sharp-tongued dame
of a Matron will tame my effervescence,
I’ll merely avoid her antiquity lessons.


Towering above uni-loos
its tears fall onto
spit-spattered slabs
pocked with roundels
of grey gum, like flung coinage.

Crying for lost crinolines
Steam and straw-hats,
it remembers when smut
came mostly from trains
hop talk or postcards.

Embarrassed, It gazes
sky or seawards;
all below is strange
as ants in tight jeans
hobble and shriek.

A smell of food is constant,
music cuts air and ear,
unsubtle colours shout
and bleak laughter triumphs
over simple sand and waves.


He’d announced this morning
That storm force winds
Would tear across Britain.
I feel them now.
They whip my body
Until, clothes a balloon,
I fill with phantom pregnancy.
How do I look,
Raped and flushed
By the amorous wind?
I feel delicate and flimsy.
Airily unconcerned, watching
Stout branches snap, I hear
Dust-bins rollicking around yards.
But I am now a dandelion clock
And soar in ecstacy, to higher ground.


I’m a midnight driver
catapulting journeys
into ‘G’ highs,
knowing I’ll never feel
so alive again.

Silken roads
winch me along,
my car a time shuttle
as I hot-zip the black
ice of night.

horizontal lift-off,
my head…
on the back seat.

My portable womb;
more friendly, more reliable,
more thrilling than you.
You’ll both be
The death of me.


Scorching the outer-lane,
late wheels chase
a fluttering thing till
it thwacks dead
off a bloodied screen.
Eyes stare rear-view
at its tumbling body and
sounds of stone feathers
remain, to jar the brain.

FLOATING (a way of life)

The door slams and
as is customary,
she floats.

Through the window,
telescoping eyes
track a form whose
breath she’d breathed.

As stillness settles
her hair hangs flat.
The street is quiet.

For ticks of time,
rushing cries
submerge her head.
She floats,

then punts her way to life.


About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
This entry was posted in Recent Poems. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Featured Poet Betsy Clewlow

  1. Geoff Sutton says:

    Death Wish,Blackpool and Next To Z are my favourites,along with Ma Docherty,of course. Real craft here. And you’re prepared to try new things.

    • Betsy Clewlow says:

      I’ve read your comment Geoff and feel a mighty sense of relief………I usually have no real idea of how a reader may think of my offerings.

  2. theleopard66 says:

    Yes, these are really something …

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