Faðer uor som ast i himlüm,halgað warðe þit nama
We watch night climb
the fells around us. The scree slope buries its face
with dark and below Wast Water puckers
a last flutter-dash across its pewter sheen.
Tilkomme þit rikie. Skie þin uilie so som i himmalan
Its depth is foreign to me,
these serious mute mountains not mine;
so oh bo iordanne. Wort dahliha broð gif os i dah.
only the names: Eskdale, St Olaf’s Church
feel almost homely – almost like relatives
you’ve never met but for your parents’ memory.
A bird calls above us,
then a rustle in the meagre margins along the lake.
Wast Water, black omphalos of a wounded earth –
Oh forlat os uora skuldar
we are soon gone, our lives hidden again –
but you draw deep, back to the source.
so som oh ui forlate þem os skuüldihi are.
In this darkness there is no pretence, not much at least.
Oh inleð os ikkie i frestalsan utan frels os
Here the scale is another, requiring a growing stride.
Tü rikiað ar þit oh mahtan oh harlihheten
The mountains mutter their knuckled prayer i ewihhet. Aman.
Prayer received a special commendation in the Oxford Brookes University International Poetry Competition, ESL category, December 2015. My other three submissions were all long listed.
“My grief” came your quick reply. Without any French
but a sniff at English, you mistranslated brilliantly
and ‘Ma Griffe’ was the closest I got to you.
I long for its woody, balsamic note.
Your scent criss-crossed my childhood –
acrid stocking-toes out of stilettos, cigarettes, boiled coffee,
sweet aroma of your Mary Quant black and silver daisy box
and that fragrant scale of Dubonnet to Aquavit –
Dubonnet on your breath: good to fair;
Chardonnay: breezy; Carlsberg: heavy showers;
Aalborg Aquavit: severe weather warning –
for this I kept a torch and Donald Duck comics under my bed.
Bottles were translucent gods; deluded cocky gods.
My sense of smell is highly educated; it hunts you down
even now – the way the past turns up in funny places;
I can pick you out in any crowd. But I digress –
your signature reels through my veins. I must write it out.
Published by Merryn Williams in ‘Infinite Riches in a ‘Little Room, Poems by the Back Room Poets, Oxford, 1999-2016’ (Albion Beatnik Press).
A woman walks on the sea bed
– a child clings to her back.
In one hand she carries a heavy suitcase,
in the other a small empty plastic bag.
The emptiness is full of footprints in mud,
little child-sized hands grasping for someone,
face after face – nobody she recognises.
One nobody smiles – a bright flash.
She places a finger onto his lips’ philtrum –
for a moment his eyes shine.
It demands balance and co-ordination
to keep walking, to cross
through an ocean, its rush hour of the dead.
Her toenails’ moons rise and wane
into the seabed. The child is silent.
The child eats shadow. Down here
the light gets darker. Darkness is a light
burden, when you carry emptiness
and nobody on the one hand,
and God knows what’s in the suitcase.
Published by Hands & Wings: Poems for Freedom from Torture (White Rat Press, 2015).
6000 BC Doggerland
When the sea took our land
we fled west, south, east
we went swiftly. Some were left behind.
Here from the edge we look
across the water, roof
to many dead; we collect twigs
strew them on the rough ground
where we shall sleep tonight.
4000 BC Denmark
She rowed away last night, her belly full-grown.
She rowed through the sky, through the moon.
The heave and cries I shall not remember –
but her slim wrist, earlobes
like sunlit amber;
I shall wrap her body in soft bark,
place by her side our unborn child
on a swan’s wing.
2000 AD Siberia
We are the Evenk. Our land is owned by the spirits
and the pitted moon fishes in our forests
where our deceased float in coffins
on felled trees.
It is a well-known miracle
that the moon bathes in lake Baikal
and swims our rivers – she drops
her long veil in the dark. Our drums hear her.
Woman with glass head
It’s risky mingling in crowds. I need my no-go-zone.
At night I hoover the bed, shake everything,
only then put my head on the pillow
but I don’t do dreams – they bash against my glass,
gather like dead moths on the occipital ledge;
and men don’t do me – say a glass blower
is a turn-off and afterwards my little blue flicker
disturbs them, but let’s not go there
as I have nothing to hide. Mirrors make me janxy –
their flat faces hanging on my lips.
She holds the cockle shell
and sacred scent of charred
frankincense resin greets her
she cannot see the black šembi
paste inside the curved shape
for evil eyes and the glare of sun
but her little finger
knows its track
the long line along the lid
and below the eye
then a quick dab of the brows
she chews pink hibiscus
and rolled with a little spit
draws across her thin lips
of each cheek
by contours and absence
Published in The Land Between By The Poet’s House Oxford (2013)
The reeds strike black against the water
two moorhens glide out of sight,
their place is somewhere – small clever
night bed of grass and straw.
Our presence fits itself to
river, darkness and the wind’s rustle.
We have stopped talking,
We never saw her rise
but there she is –
at the end of the meadow,balancing
on silhouetted trees:
a glowing belly – veined and luminous
touchable as flesh.
Published in ‘A river runs through us’ by The Free Range Poets of Barn Galleries (2013)