Well … not quite yet, but it is Advent. As time precludes the setting up of an Advent Calendar with one poem per day until Christmas, we’re bringing you a bumper edition of recent poems by Stoke Stanza regulars.
These – and news of competitions from the Poetry Society – should keep you going until the next Stoke Stanza sessions at The Leopard on Tuesday January 20th and Tuesday 24th February, both at 7.30pm.
First up, here’s a poem by Jenny Hammond.
AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE BLONDES
The blondes with white incisor smiles
unseen behind their face masks,
are poised to strike.
Thoughts of sunny beaches, sea-lap sound,
morning chorus music, wild red poppies,
hypnotize me into semi-sleep.
The blondes stretch on their rubber gloves.
One sidles over, probes my mouth,
numbs my gum with “venom”.
Her uncoiled drill rattles my head.
I smell burning. There’s water in my mouth.
I smother rising panic.
The assistant’s threatening sucker
assaults my cheeks, probes under my tongue,
hisses like a viper.
I’m strangling the chair arms.
My mouth gags. My mind cries “Stop!”
until they reveal their faces, peel off their gloves.
One helps me up to rinse my mouth.
Pink water slobbers down my chin.
She hands me tissues and a mirror.
I see a lopsided smile in a haggard face.
I slide unsteadily from the chair,
ready to escape with a slurred “Thank you.”
Geoff Sutton has submitted two poems. The first concerns Wang Wei, an 8th century T’ang poet and statesman whose wife died young.
WANG WEI IN CHESHIRE
I walk beside the M6 motorway
the northbound carriageway is quiet
before noon we are walking without sticks
my wife is walking beside me
fields full of puddles across the track
sycamores are turning yellow
shrivelled berries on the brambles
it gets hard not to be sadder
until I remember the blossoms of April
and the blossoms of next April
sit on Lord Berkeley’s rock throne
we look up not down
nose the tang of hemp
stretch the bouncy nylon each
has its breaking point
remember one day
you may have rope to cut
which will save us both
I was twenty five
years in the mountains never
had to cut a rope
hone the shiny blade
open the red Swiss knife cut
for now is the time
light purple snow lies
where saxifrage stars limestone
we trudge down slowly
hear paths become allts
avons widen to torrents
music of water
next morning the sun
glitters every moist crag
on the stern druim
On a similar outdoor/nature theme, Peter Branson has supplied a poem first published in The North in 2014.
THE GREY GHOST
Circus cyaneus: The Hen Harrier
‘The most intensively persecuted of all UK birds of prey.’ Conservation Status: RED
The High Peak, Derbyshire, late afternoon, now.
In purposeful, crow-level, flight, he hugs
the contour, sound beneath where crags frame sky,
glows like the moon, spun out of morning mist,
gossamer-fine, swims slow deliberate strokes,
against the evening tide. Wing-fingers dip
to kiss the boggy ground, come up tar-brushed,
as black as sodden peat. This Gypsy Moth,
slow quartering, gull-like, engrossed, a pale
grey ghost, eyes lensing like twin telescopes,
hunts meadow lark and vole on heather moor.
Near stall, he wheels and melts away across
dark chocolate-coated fell in failing light.
Grouse-keeper takes the food-on-table view,
still doffs his cap, with poison, trap and gun,
to status quo the rest of us have long
dispatched, values engraved, father to son.
In spring, males advertising squatting rights,
like swimmers from the tallest diving board,
with threshing, twisted, ringtail-spinning fall,
cry wolf, to rise, as from the earth itself.
Long gone, no witnesses, cleaned out: what’s this,
some fleeting pallid dream, wise words made flesh?
Raw eyed, the curlew wails, lost soul in thrall.
Keeps close to home these days, still gets away
with it, by nod and wink, stagecraft, his trade
to harvest grouse for syndicates to kill;
recalls that photo of his grandfather,
poised, at his gibbet, row of motley fur
and feather, dirty washing on the line,
putrid, impossible to reconcile.
Gillian Garwood has three poems this month.
THE JAPANESE WATER GARDENS AT GIVERNEY
Did Monet sink into the depths of this colour and reflection?
Like a moth stunned into obsequium by a lights attraction.
Did the calm water bathe his mind in peace and serenity?
Like an infant in the prenatal warmth unaware of its destiny.
Or did the riot of colour excite and stir his imagination,
Ensnaring him to capture everything but the emotion.
Did he wish to hold the beauty in a moment of silent elegance?
A lasting memorial to natures artistry and brilliance.
Enclosed in this space with nowhere to run,
Nowhere to hide from the blazing hot sun.
I wish I was once again roaming free,
With the wild Savanna calling to me.
I miss the exhilaration of the chase,
Being the victor, or just having a race.
I miss the fresh taste, of food warm and new,
Cold rotting flesh, is now what I’m due.
Once I was known as King of the beast,
Now I feel lower than the least of the least.
Once I could wander wherever I dare,
Now all I do, is stand while they stare.
A MOMENT IN TIME
Some people come and some people go,
The tide of life, does ebb and flow.
Yes, people drift into this life of mine,
Leaving footprints in the sands of my time.
Some people are rare and hard to find,
But they make an impression on my mind.
They flash inspiration, and I wait for the roll,
As their thunder rumbles, inside my soul.
These episodes, of much significance,
Are they planned, or accidental in circumstance.
That fleeting glimpse, that glancing blow,
As some people come and some people go.
Paul Fox was on droll form …
FRODO THE CLOWN D.F.C.
Fred Frodo was a circus clown –
He worked for Billy Smart.
He’d an Honours Degree in Theology
Twinned with the Circus Arts.
But when the war broke out, it seems
They closed the circus down.
There was no time for laughter
In the Blitz, in London Town.
He tried to join the army
But they said “Now look here Freddy,
We’d love to let you join, but we’ve got
Clowns enough already.”
So broken-hearted Freddie,
(As all was lost, alas)
Came to decide on suicide
He’d do this using gas.
He got himself a cylinder –
He hoped he’d soon be dead
But the gas he’d thought would end his life
Was helium instead.
Inflating like some clown balloon
He rose into the sky –
But now he helped to win the war
And here’s the reason why.
When German warplanes filled the sky
Lit by a “Bomber’s Moon”
He floated high o’er London Town
The first Barrage Buffoon.
Last, and by no means least, it’s John Williams with some sartorial and transport revelations.
I TRY ON PANTS
I try on pants I’ve not worn for years,
baggy at the knees and seams awry
as if I missed a medication or banished the iron.
I hitch them up, snug at the waist,
an early self I keep among the beachwear,
twitchy shirts and dangly sleeves.
Deep inside the cupboard, a rack of hooks
for young Apollo who splashed out once on a trial bike,
pockets full of bets and a love of speed.
Like pants that drop from sight, there’s a case for ghosts
to rise and step outside where barbecues burn
and kick a clapped-out motorbike into life.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Poetic New Year. Hope to see you soon at The Leopard or online.