This poem was first published in The Frogmore Papers and appears in Excisions.
Dark rain falling on grey
and no cabs near Grand Central Station.
We stop by a neon diner to look at the map
which melts as we stand in the splash
at the corner of East 38th and Park
and kiss like the first time.
Tomorrow perhaps we’ll remember
the pilot’s jokes on the turbulent flight,
that mad bus driver
cursing the freeway from JFK,
but for now, for once
no-one else exists, no other place,
just you and me in Manhattan,
our hearts in shock. The dark rain
flooding the street.
I wrote this poem when I was writer in residence at Woodlands Organic Farm. It was first published in Resurgence and appears in Treasure Ground. It has been broadcast on BBC Radio Lincolnshire.
Flying Officer Ray Bédard, aged 25, of 439 Squadron RCAF, was flying from RAF North Luffenham in a Canadair Sabre MK2 on 23 June, 1953. He broke from formation and was killed after bailing out while his aircraft was in a steep dive. The plane crashed in a field by Whitehouse Farm near Woodlands.
There's still the geometry
of lanes and dykes and hedges,
a spirit-level horizon. East, the North Sea
sheet-metal smooth to the sun.
West, a thousand fields beyond Long Tankins
hundreds of nameless shades of green.
Now, as then, the invisible skylark
rehearses, rehearses. The marsh harrier
glides low over wheat, drops on a vole.
Hares lie in hollows, unblinking.
The next poem is from my sequence Self-portrait without Breasts, which forms the central section of Excisions. This poem has been published in The Sandhopper Lover (Cinnamon Press, 2009) and in Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme, Vol 28, nos 2,3.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE SURGERY
'Cast me and I will become what I must be'
We’ve oiled my shoulders, collarbone,
breasts – olive-scented, shiny
as greased rubberwood, I’m primed for casting.
You soak chalky bandages, wrap me
in slapstick layers of white –
a sacrament to tender body and life.
Working fast before the plaster sets
we smooth wet dressings onto slippery skin –
keep my contours, take my shape;
at every fold and ruck we stop, look closer
to remember. I lie death-still, encased,
breath slow-drawn, not to crack my shell:
an end and a beginning. Beneath the carapace
I hum a lullaby – you lift the curves away,
cast off my breastplate,
air moving like shadow over sentenced flesh.
Here is one of the poems I wrote when I was working with life prisoners at HMP Shepton Mallet. It was published in Smiths Knoll.
At the second razor fence
she turns right
for the visitors’ locker room;
she leaves her stuff
and takes the key,
pressing it into the corner of her pocket
like a lover’s keepsake,
something reassuring to touch
knowing that later
she’ll wriggle the key
and spring the little vented door
to reclaim the purse,
the driver’s licence, the paracetamol,
the blockbuster she was reading
this morning, as she sat in the sun
on the steps outside
waiting to go in.