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William Bedford’s The bread horse

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Very pleased to be reading William Bedford’s book published by Red Squirrel Press, an independent press based in Northumberland and run under the editorship and keen eye of its Founder Editor, Sheila Wakefield.

I have long admired Bedford’s work and by pure happenstance chose his poem, Then as winner in the 2014 Roundel Poetry Competition. As it doesn’t seem to appear in either of these collections (and I love it) I’d like to share it with you here.

 

Then

for Alison Brackenbury (North Lincolnshire: 1959-1963)

I had to kill them when it was time to go,
take my leave and catch the stopping train.
Rhode Island Reds they were,
kept for the eggs and kitchen table.
We tarred the wounds of the flock’s victim,
locked the hutch at night with twined wire.
If we left the gate open, two followed us
up the garden. One dared the kitchen,
sitting for a photograph on my shoulder.
I had to kill them when it was time to leave.
The one sitting on my knee was the tamest,
used to pecking seed from warm hands.
She seemed surprised, finding no seed,
not worrying I was going to break her neck.
My father had to fetch the farmer. I cried.
All twelve were gone in a heaven’s blink,
a grubby fiver, then biscuits and a cup of tea.
We sold them for the table. Our own stood empty.
Too poor a food for us in pheasant season.

Like this poem, Bedford’s others are haunting, his collections richly detailed, poignant and at times heart-breaking. He captures our history, our ancestors’ histories and the landscape inhabited by generations.

 
The Bell

They couldn’t afford to buy you a bike,
so bought the bell instead, a Christmas present
wrapped in last week’s newspapers. It still rang.
You clanged it round the house for hours,

then up and down the cobbled yard outside,
excited by all the promise a bell implies.
They never managed the bike. Lost interest.
Forgot it then said you were too old.

You kept the bell instead of photographs.
Photographs can tell lies, those summer smiles
on Sunday School outings, picnics with no cider
and sandwiches of bread and margarine.

You did buy a bike, the year you married,
and kept a promise nobody else knew,
riding the long clouds of purple heather.

 

I recommend you delve into Bedford’s world, be it the Fenlands of Lincolnshire, Mam Tor or Derwent Dam. I can assure you the journey is worth it.

For more information about William visit his web page here.

To order his book visit Red Squirrel’s site here

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5 thoughts on “William Bedford’s The bread horse”

  1. What moving poems – The Bell made a lump come to my throat, just as the best poetry can. You can breathe it and those last two lines are stunners – ‘and kept a promise nobody else knew, riding the long clouds of purple heather’. This is very special – thank you for posting. I felt I wanted more!

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