December poems part 1: Derrick Buttress, Sharon Black, E.E. Nobbs

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Winter Fire

It snowed all through the night, unabated,
and a knife-edged East wind drove
mounting drifts hard against the door.
We hammered the last of the coal
to stoke a roaring fire as though
there could never be an end to
the bitter storms of winter.

We knew such reckless burning was foolish
when the fire sank, at last, to a splutter
of smoke and spark into the ash-filled pan.
‘It’s steal or freeze,’ Mother said and sent me out
to shovel through head-high walls of snow.
Inside a neighbour’s shed lay a ton of coal,
each lump big enough to warm up half a day.

I waded through ice-encrusted drifts
in a world buried under silence.
My guilt was as sharp as the wind
as I pushed through a hedge thinned by winter.
I crossed the neighbour’s virgin snow.
A frigid pair, winter was their element
so I stole their coal, hating their disdain for us.

In our kitchen coalhouse Mother’s eyes danced
like a girl’s. Shaking ice from my clothes
I shivered in the freezing porch,
surveyed my damning track from our door
and across the neighbour’s snow.
‘They’ll know it’s us!’ I cried, but Mother laughed.
‘God looks after his own! Pass me the hammer!’

And she gaily cracked the coal apart,
smashed the hammer down on it,
on poverty and his messenger,
the everlasting tallyman knocking on the door.

From Waiting for the invasion, Shoestring (2002)

Derrick Buttress

Derrick Buttress‘ poems have been published widely in magazines, including Magma, Ambit, The Interpreter’s House and Iota. Two television plays were produced by BBC 2 and several radio plays were broadcast by BBC Radio 4. His poetry collections are: Waiting For the Invasion (Shoestring) 2002; My Life As A Minor Character (Shoestring) 2005; Destinations (Shoestring 2009). A Memoir, Broxtowe Boy was published in 2004, also by Shoestring. Its sequel, Music While You Work, was published by Shoestring Press in 2007.



Artwork: David Barnes


Minus 12 on the back of a too-early spring:
next door’s kittens didn’t make it,
the peach bark’s split wide, an old ewe
out by Marquairès tunnel was frozen stiff
by the time the shepherd reached her.

Two days on, the hills hunch under a dusting of snow –
paths, dry-stone terraces, animal trails
suddenly revealedlike fingerprints during a forensics sweep.

The Mistral has been taken in for questioning.


Things Noticed While Walking in Snow

A single car’s tracks: two ribbons
unrolled on a cutting sheet.
Bird prints by a hawthorn bush:
a smattering of ancient Greek;
discreet scars on a marble beauty’s thighs.
A curtain of ice over bulging bedrock.
Your hand balled round mine.
Fields spread out like a bridal gown.
Power lines plotting perspective.

Through scrawled birches, two donkeys:
vigilant, freeze-framed,
the female’s bray muffled by the cold.
Your hands in your pockets, mine by my side.
An absence of words.
The river, giddy and gleaming:
a dark vein trying to resuscitate
the ghost of land.

And always the split duvet of sky, emptying itself over us
over and over
to cushion our fall.
Sharon Black

Sharon Black is originally from Glasgow but now lives in France. Her collection, To Know Bedrock, is published by Pindrop Press. She won the Ilkley Literature Festival’s Poetry Competition 2013, Grace Dieu Poetry Competition 2013, Poetic Republic Portfolio Prize 2012, The Frogmore Poetry Prize 2011,  The New Writer Poetry Competition (Collection category) 2010, TNW Poetry Competition (Single Poem category) 2009 and Envoi International Poetry Compeition 2009. Her website.

Artwork: Jenny Meilihove


Coming in from the barn after chores

The moon was full and it was cold
enough to make a crust on top
of snow that lay two feet deep or
more — an even sheet of white
across the pasture field between
the orchard and the maple hedge.
The crust was thick and held my weight.
I ran for hours over fallen stars.

Perhaps I almost flew.

this / split / piece
of firewood was once
a (live) tree
hornet’s nest, vacated,
sways from twig of leafless tree

. – time flies

leaves all fallen
off, de-tessellated
from twigs – leaving trees with no notes
to sing.

E.E. Nobbs

E.E. Nobbs lives in Charlottetown Prince Edwards Island, Canada. Snow and long winters play a huge role in her life, and she always keeps two hot water bottles handy – in case one springs a leak. She won the Doire Press Second International Poetry Chapbook Contest this year, and her chapbook The Invisible Girl (Doire Press, 2013) can be ordered direct from the author: ellyfromearth.



Artwork: Heidi Mallet


2 thoughts on “December poems part 1: Derrick Buttress, Sharon Black, E.E. Nobbs”

  1. Lovely chilly start – thanks all you poets. I can’t believe I was walking on a sunny beach this morning in December – it seemed surreal. So these poems have made me feel more ‘wintry’ – I love the illustrations – they’ve captured the poems brilliantly.

  2. I really enjoyed these poems, wonderful imagery…. ‘the split duvet of sky, emptying itself over us
    over and over’. And the artwork, in particular the first one by David Barnes – it makes me want to look and keep looking. Thanks for posting.

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