Mosaic – Essex Stanza

Mosaic Poetry Stanza Group

Mosaic is a Stanza group based in Colchester, Essex. We meet monthly and the focus of the meeting alternates between a stimulus workshop and a critiquing session.

We asked Abegail to lead our August session and had a very productive and stimulating session working on memories and ideas associated with our own family’s language and culture.


My Grandmother’s Grieving

She was frail, having donated her remaining strength
to the dead – she dressed like a wraith in grey jersey
or light navy, like approaching dusk.  I remember
a summer frock in flowered crepe. I don’t remember
the colour of her eyes, I’m guessing recessive blue like mine.
Hers hid behind gold-rimmed glasses. I can’t remember
the sound of her voice, or even if she spoke to me.

Her hands were like Durer’s drawing of hands at prayer,
slender, fine-skinned, with fingernails like filberts.
Her Icon took the form of a sepia photo hung
next to Holman Hunt’s chromograph of Jesus Christ.
In case I didn’t get the message that my uncle
was well on the way to sainthood before he was killed.
His reliquary is an inlaid Georgian tea caddy
which I excavated after my grandmother’s death.

At last I met my uncle, Roland Charles, via his relics:
his photo in a silver frame. (Alongside a laughing pal
outside a tent, he holds up a large dead fish. What larks!)
His green leather tobacco pouch with mouldering wisps
of Old Holborn lies with the pipe that smoked it.
Here’s a rusted tin of gramophone needles, HMV.
A copy of a poem he wrote is a brown and brittle crisp
in my unsanctified fingers. He’s handsome, as Harlequin
at an office party. His silver vesta is engraved with his name;
a cutting from The County Express records his fatal accident
one spring evening in 1929. The badge from the Royal Enfield
that killed him is tarnished, his death certificate, folded small.

Relics, pervading my childhood. Of course I have the caddy
and the icon still, and here, on my stairs, an oil painting of him
as a child on his pony, Jenny, with the dogs, Scamp the terrier
and the black lab, Pat. There’s my grandmother’s pet magpie
in a cage, taught to say her name, Mag, Mag . . .

With such loud grief, how could mine be heard?
A magpie in my garden, free in the holly tree, agrees.


Pam Job

Pam Job enjoys working with other poets, in local groups and on-line. She also likes competitions because of the deadlines, and poetry workshops for the stimulus. She is widely published.


Button your lip
Grannie’s Button Box

Your box, about the size of a thick book, gleamed black as ebony,
bright chrysanthemums, one pink and one yellow painted on the lid.
We were allowed to open the box on the dining table,
taking care of the half broken hinge.

Inside lay shelves of buttons, arranged in separate sections,
we could swing the top layer out to reveal the next shelf.
To us these buttons were magical, so many colours, shapes, sizes
and purposes – be careful not to spill them – we picked them out,
fingered them, felt their shapes and textures.

Buttons for boots and shoes, requiring the claw of a button hook;
tiny pearls for infants’ garments, four-holed whites
for Grandad’s shirts; large horned buttons for winter coats; spare
buttons to replace those lost from every garment you ever knitted;
glamourous glass, floral petals, rubber buttons for liberty bodices;
tiny buttons for high necked collars and tight cuffs.

They spoke for you, those buttons. Buttons should be done up,
keeping things closed, holding in modesty, emotions, shame,
saving one’s dignity. They showed your practical thought and care
– garments should be mended. Buttons sewn on
for words that could not be spoken.

Judith Wolton

Judith has been writing and studying poetry for many years. She has had individual poems published in various magazines and local anthologies. She has a particular interest in nature writing and environmental issues. She has lived near the Essex coast for over 50 years and finds inspiration there.


No Words
i.m. John Lobel 1907-1988

Manchester born, yet you spoke like a gentleman,
I never heard you ask for some ‘scran’,
or moan about a stain on your ‘kecks’,
you didn’t complain about the ‘schmucks’ in the office,
or the ‘bupkis’ they talked as they whispered
about your unBritish skin, or your being a Jew.

You used the King’s English, served in the R.A.F.,
trade marrying up into merchant class.
You reached across religions, tradition, integrated,
the son of a refugee you rarely journeyed far,
just an annual trip to Eastbourne
on the overnight bus to the same B&B,
it’s as if you did your best to go unnoticed, unheard.

I never told you I found our kin in the ashes of the Shoah,
in Iaşi it took them all, half of the town in a single day.
And it’s as if a part of you had been removed,
was marched out among that fifty thousand,
hid beneath their bodies in a wordless silence.

David Canning

David’s poetry has been published in various magazines, anthologies, film, and on television and radio. He has also served on the judging panel for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.

Ice-cream Moment
In celebration of the life of Ian Verchère.

I missed the ice-cream moment when cones
of ices were raised by guests at his wake: signs
and symbols of what Ian meant to us.
A toast to the wide smile, amused look, the eyes’
inborn twinkle which were his. Larger than life,
Renaissance man are trite but true. ‘Be safe’?
Ah no! But ‘Step forwards, never backwards!’
was his mantra. Life is an adventure. Words
were his weapon and torch. He had a writer’s
interest in all the world gives, all that occurs.
Trekker, joker, traveller, fearless sailor,
peerless parent and pal, he outfaced failure.

To these glories of the man we loved and lost,
I’ve reprised the ice-cream cone toast that I missed.

A photo of Ian smiling widely and about to enjoy an ice-cream cone was on the cover of the service order for the celebration and thanksgiving service for him at St Mary’s Church, Ivinghoe, on Tuesday 10th August 2021, at 2.30 pm.

Stewart Francis

Stewart Francis is a retired school teacher. He writes poems regularly, for therapy or to record things noticed, thought or felt. He reads a wide range of poetry.

2 thoughts on “Mosaic – Essex Stanza”

  1. The references to the paintings are so powerful in My Gandmother’s Grieving. The uncles’s Old Holborn, etc brought back memories. The Magpie amazing!
    Not well currently and these poems felt like a very special get well soon message. .Buttons, No words, IIce cream moments etc Thank you.

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