For a week or two most normal work is on hold while the middle of winter is passed in holidays. Poets tend not to take holidays from poetry: they usually have a bit more time to catch up with things. Here’s some festive and daily verse from our contributors around the world.
There will be one more post this year, published on Hogmanay. Next year we will try to develop things a little. I’m looking for a way to post poetry book reviews somewhere on the site, but they can’t be mixed with the poems. Watch this space. Anyone more familiar with WordPress would be welcome to get in touch and suggest how this could be done.
Wishing a good season to all our readers…
Boxing Day, and overfull with sweet roast turkey,
sherry trifle, fruited cake, we craved the open sky
and ventured out to Wittenham, its grassy Clumps
still frosted in the afternoon. Hand-held we stumped
up Castle Hill, to find the ancient Poem Tree –
Tubb’s tribute to his landscape: Augustine’s monastery;
remains of Roman villas cradled by the winding Thames;
Cwichelm’s grave; the distant Ridgeway; Mercia’s bounds.
We traced his pen-knifed stanzas, gnarled and worn,
distorted by a century’s growth. Before we turned
for home, we took a photograph, just us, the tree, the sky,
where over-wheeled by rare Red Kites we paused awhile.
Unseen, beneath its bark, a beetled core. A summer storm
has swept it all away; now even words are gone.
Angi Holden writes: I might just (only just!) squeak under the 3-yr radar with this poem, as it was published on Boxing Day on Poetry Advent Calendar 2012.
Rowena M Love
Presents and Absence
Presents breed beneath an artificial tree;
size and quantity valued more than thought
No time left – for you’re no longer here.
No instant fix of comfort and joy
for me this year –
just cold turkey
followed by mince pies and sighs.
While white berries glisten their tears
for the missed kisses of mistletoe,
the family’s conscience pricks and jags
in an abundance of holly.
Their dutiful deeds smother me
with an ivy stranglehold.
I’m encircled by wreaths
dark as depression,
except for red-berried guilt
glowing like coals of Hell
among the glossy green leaves.
Conversation is carefully wrapped
in glib messages of goodwill:
tissue thin and easily torn,
only the Sellotape of good intentions
holds it together.
I’m so cold.
yet constantly surrounded;
a footprint in slowly melting snow.
Published in Psychopoetica anthology “Changes” on 31.8.99 Also published in Reach Issue 76, December 2003. Rowena’s Scots language version of this poem is currently on the Scots Language Centre’s website
A Child in War
Once he lived in a house on a hillside
with his brothers and sisters, his father
and mother. Each day he sang in the gaze
of the sun and the shadow of the trees.
Now he lives in a trembling hospital
with doctors and nurses for his family.
Each day he presses a small pointed face
to the window, but cannot see the hill.
Soon he will learn to walk in the rubble
of the city, on what is left of a tree.
Then he will sing his song as if nothing
much had happened, like a pitiless bird.
First appeared in Magma 8 in 1996 and then in a self-published collection A Panther in Heaven and other poems in 2008.
Night of little wind
Stillness breathing over fir trees
And the house –
Turreted, with staircases and towers
And secret passages
And levels going up into the sky.
A stained-glass window
Where the light is always on –
Impossible fairy-tale castle
Seen in moonlight.
Light is turning
On the hoof of darkness
Belly dark-turned to the south.
Seed of summer planted
In the hollow of the pine tree,
By the gate.
Grave of secrets,
And other small creatures
Who seem to come out in the open
Only to die.
And the leaves of course,
Lots of leaves.
It seemed so long an autumn.
But winter turns now
On the tide of night –
Responding to some other call.
An inch or two,
Scattered minutes, here and there,
The world grows – slowly –
Out of darkness, into day.
First published in The Star Reaper collection, in 1980, then published as a poem card in 1998 and then on the Golden Thread website in 2010.