We Women Sing

(written with and for the women of the Northwood Centre, Kirkby)


in praise of fresh air and hard work,

strong daughters, good sons, green fields,

husbands and the memory of husbands,

of recoveries and engagement rings,


we women sing


in praise of custard made from scratch,

home-grown rhubarb and grapes,

the thoughtfulness of cabbage water,


in praise of the girls from Tate & Lyle,

tar bubbles and blue skies, the Big woods

and our wages from Birdseye,

of many sure and simple things


we women sing


in memory of our exile from the smoke,

of the ROF girls with yellow faces,

Spinney Wood, the River Alt, the terminus, trams

in memory of our lovely dads and mams,


in memory of farmers and open fires,

the end of wood chip and ski slopes,

in memory of young men and inquests

of mistle-thrush, bombs and cigarettes.


We women sing


of Aunt Magda and her sequined hat,

of the fruit and veg man with a hole in his throat,

of the lady called snow white.


We women sing


in praise of clean streets,

in praise of the Kirkby witches and martial arts,

demonstrations against industrial accidents and poisons,

loving families and skateboard parks


we women sing


in praise of open spaces

and the old town centre, maps, knowledge,

bingo and respect, the endless laughs


of friendship, protest and photographs.



imag0212-1-11.jpgAll the Peace I've Known

will not fit in words, or pictures of doves.
I am not able to give you co-ordinates
for that now, still hushed,
drenched-with-hope place.

I stood there once,
yes - it was in Gloucestershire
I remember.
I could hear birdsong -
but not all the birds of the county.

On a small bridge above the Wye
not far from Symond’s Yat,
the evening rain coloured the river,
a confetti of light touched my face,
like ashes at the start of Lent.

In the rented farmhouse
my lost friends prepared supper,
potato soup and solace with brown bread.

In my body, my bones prepared themselves
like a tailor’s pattern
for the sons and daughters I could not imagine.

I did not know about the lilac light
(when all the world’s asleep)
except for my baby and the mother I would be:

how I cradled my daughter
the way we should all be held.
I fed her with myself.

How like us to become food
and not know our powers.

How like peace to sit inside us.
To wait for that moment
of astonishment
when we open our mouths and sing.

published in Templar Poetry's 2014 anthology SKEIN


Pauline's nan

The Alchemist 

Her second daughter
killed outright
did not hear the lorry.
Her hood too tight,
was fixed with care,
protection from the cold
by her mother’s touch,
as good as gold.

At night
she fled the house,
her dancing feet
ran with frantic flight
along the street.
The search was useless,
for her girl was dead.
No pain,
it was an instant thing,
the policeman said.

My grandmother,
dead at 39,
sprayed all things gold.
Tired chairs,
old frames,
cracked vases.

She was an alchemist.
Or so I’m told.

From Waiting for The Brown Trout God (Headland, 2009)


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