The Poetry Shed

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Roundel, Tonbridge – Jacquie Wyatt, Rennie Halstead, Jenny Herbert and Charlie Bell


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Based in Tonbridge, Kent, Roundel was formed in 2012. We meet twice monthly, on a Wednesday morning and a Saturday afternoon, to develop our skills, and critique our work. In September 2021, Abegail led a workshop for us exploring the epistolatory form. Some of the poems here are the product of that session..

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Dear Saturday Market Stallholder

I was infused with the nettle fizz
of jeopardy. What if you were
no longer there? Might you appear
the same but be lost to me?

Sorry, but your face makes me
think of a halved lemon
dripping yellow clarity.
Seeing you reminded me
of sliding a much-used boat
in to calm waters.

All the hair’s gone from your head,
now it’s a white forest curling
out of your shirt. You raised an eyebrow:
And where have you been?

I couldn’t think of an answer.
Last year’s events, people and places
scaffolding for this moment,
now dissembled.

Jacquie Wyatt

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Harris Tweed

The jacket hung on the bannister post,
rough Harris Tweed, blue lovat plaid
faded to a mottled grey.

I’d bury my nose in the rough
texture, wool softened with age,
run toddler’s fingers through the ripped lining,
my silky. Leather patches sewn on
worn elbows. Shapeless pockets,
the button hole with his union badge,
remembrance poppy
or a flower from the allotment.

He wore it on cool evenings,
not wanting a coat, or going fishing
for winter pike, or digging when
the ground was hard with frost.
Some days he would wrap it round me,
threaten to carry me off to the frozen north
to adventures with whales and polar bears.

On dark nights I’d slip it on
in the hallway in secret,
search pockets for treasure:
his silver hip flask, flower seeds,
Fisherman’s Friends, once a fish-hook
snagged under my finger-nail, his cap
rolled up, and once a packet of condoms,
the embarrassed cough when I asked
how they worked.

Rennie Halstead

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Rennie writes poetry, flash fiction and reviews poetry for London Grip. He lives in Kent.

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Bliss

Beneath a jaunty umbrella
the baby, six months now
heavy in his sling
heavy on her back.
Her thoughts already
on a hot cup of coffee
and hopefully a sleepy child.

Not so long ago she was smart
organised, respected, in demand.
Now only dishes wait,
the laundry basket full.
The smell of damp clothes
permeate the house.

She longs for her mother’s smile,
her arms to rock the baby
soothe his hunger cries.
She yearns to lie beneath
ironed sheets to drift and dream.

Team meetings where her word
was law, admired, respected.
A large salary three holidays a year,
life was pretty good.
Her high powered partner away again.
Paris then Amsterdam. Only ten days
this time he said with a smile.

The sinking feeling in the pit
of her stomach, a smile on her face
as she waved goodbye.

Now the days are long the weather grey,
what should be joy feels anything but.

She pulls the blinds down.
The baby sleeps, she sleeps.

Jenny Herbert

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Dear Colonel
We didn’t even know we were friends

It was a grisly way to go,
and in a ghoulish sort of way I foresaw it all.

That Saturday, three weeks before,
when I was clearing the lush dense jungle
of your old chicken run.
Do you remember?

At the back I had found your chicken hut,
slowly going to pieces but still serviceable,
just like your own arthritic, bent-backed house.
The roofing felt had partly blown off
in sympathy with the tiles on the house roof,
stripped during the hurricane.

Poor old house.
It’s ancient fabric daily
collapsing in on itself,
just like your body was slowly
collapsing in on you.
I could see that life had become one long battle
to stop things falling apart.

On that clear cold day,
even though it was worth saving,
I poured paraffin over the chicken hut
and set it alight, before piling against it
the rest of the rubbish.
I’m not quite sure why.

I didn’t have to do it, things just got out of hand.
The air was full of the stench of burning dampness,
of scorching green stems as the skin peeled back,
of paraffin and bitumen.
The world crackled, spat, showered, scorched, melted and charred.
Dense smoke choked the air.
For a moment I stood transfixed, eyes out of focus,
face, clothes and skin almost alight.
Inside, I knew I should not be doing it.

When you arrived the knives of fire were eight feet high:
the structure white hot.
I could see the disappointment in your eyes
through the haze of gin,
through the medication,
but apart from a mild comment, you did not rebuke me.
You knew you wouldn’t be keeping hens again.
Another of your cherished dreams finally meeting reality.

Poor old colonel.
I didn’t want to be the one
to destroy your ramshackle dreams.
I wasn’t to know that,
only a short time later,
you’d set yourself on fire with exactly the same stupidity
as me torching your chicken coop.
I wasn’t to know that on that coldest of cold days,
when you changed the gas cylinder
it would ignite in a ball of flame
and set alight the faded, dry as tinder curtains.
I could not foresee that instead of getting out of the room,
you would try to remove the flaming cylinder itself.
I could not foresee your foolish, stumbling end.

Still, I know all about the foolishness of playing with fire.
And I don’t have the excuse of being full of painkillers,
and getting on in years.

The house,
a crumbling collection of bits from the scrapyard of your life,
stood, charred, silent, mourning, for over a year
before the bulldozers moved in.

I dare say that the owners of the new mansion
will not want to keep chickens.
The grounds will be groomed with nail scissor precision.
There will be no place for the clutter of your garden room,
the chaos of your greenhouse,
the wilful wood at the end of the lawn,
the overgrown, sunken rose garden,
the collapsing weather-boarded garage:
the detritus of your sadly broken lifetime.

So, I miss you, Colonel
and the pain of your going haunts me still,
even though I hardly knew you at all.

Charlie Bell
Charlie is a well-known Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells author, poet, and creative writing tutor. He regularly runs one-man shows and in four years has raised £3000 for charity. His next show, ‘Selfie – This Old Man’, an examination of the ageing process, will be held early next year.

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Remains

This is the case with the casts from Pompeii:
the bent and huddled shapes that cowered in fear
as the ash fell, choking and singeing, trapping them.
So they lay for two thousand years, until
after the uncovering, casts were made
of their body shapes so we could see
their last tortured hours.

And here, behind glass in the hot sun
lie those ancient shapes, while in the corner
a small sparrow, hopping in for a curious moment
could find no escape for himself
so shares their tomb;
the same that baked him alive
keeps the dead safe.

Avis Eaton

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Haigh Lane 1983 – Steve Komarnyckyj

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Haigh Lane 1983 

For Andy Cowperthwaite

I

Some days you would just heat two cutlery knives
In the gasfire, squeeze
A hunk of resin between them and inhale
The fumes through a bottomless milk bottle.

Some days we die rather than live our lives
Paddling in the Styx
Sometimes our soul is just a thread of smoke
Sometimes life is just the punchline to your joke.

II

Well friend, I know that while some die to live
You were already living to die,
Groping through the rhododendrons
For a coherence
In life’s improvised melody,

I hope you found yourself
By Bretton lake
With shrubs sifting the twilight.
Come back and watch the waves remake
Your reflection always, and heal

Every mistake.
Catch the moonlight inside a guitar
Tuned to the water’s music.
Your death only a grace note.
Dear friend hear it.

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Steve Komarnyckyj’s literary translations and poems have appeared in Index on Censorship, Modern Poetry in Translation and many other journals and he has taught at The Poetry School. He is the holder of two PEN awards and a highly regarded English language poet whose work has been described as articulating “what it means to be human” (Sean Street). He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie and three domestic cats.

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In this City – Clive Donovan

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.In this City

In this city there are trees
Where cafés squat in clefts of branches.
Gardens thrive in saucers set on tops of buildings.
Twists of wisteria, clematis, jasmine, adorn edges
Fed by systems of rain reclamation.

Artwork is indented and installed everywhere –
Murals, mosaics, sculptures of metals fused with ceramic;
The very trees are carved and bent, woven to fantastical shapes.
Bridges span canals where glide gondolas
Offering graceful passage for free.

And crime? [you always ask, you visitors]. We stare
At the citizens’ movie, the happy movie in which we star.
For all that moves is registered, the taboo crime is sabotage
 – Muddling the cameras, tampering with history –  
Only thoughts remain obscured in the boxed-sets of our lives.

 – And desire:
My favourite bar is at the top of a giant sequoia:
Would you care to meet for lunch and a game of brain exchange?

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Clive Donovan devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Fenland Poetry Journal, Neon Lit. Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry Shed, Prole, Sentinel Lit. Quarterly and Stand. His debut collection will be published by Leaf by Leaf in November 2021. 

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Two Swans by Amlanjyoti Goswami

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Amlanjyoti Goswami’s recent collection of poems ‘River Wedding’ (Poetrywala) has been widely reviewed.  His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies around the world, including The Poetry Review, Rattle, Acumen, Shearsman, Southword, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Skylight 47, Amsterdam Quarterly, Penguin Vintage, among others. A Best of the Net nominee, his poems have also appeared on street walls in Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg, an e-gallery in Brighton and buses in Philadelphia. He has read in various places, including New York, Delhi and Boston. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Together We Walk on the Common by Steve Walter

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                                                                                         The Great Get Together, Refugees Week 2021

Steve was first published in the Literary Review, and has most recently been part of the covid anthology: Arrival at Elsewhere published by Against the Grain. His second pamphlet of poetry is When the Change Came, (Indigo Dreams, 2016). His long poem, Gaia 2020, is published by Making Connections Matter.