Written at Pant workshop with Marion Cockin, February 2017
Mining the Truth
Told we are walking uphill to a quarry
where boulders were blasted, fired up in kilns
to make lime, perfect to sweeten sour soil,
I imagine I’d come to the edge of a pit.
This mass of grey rock, a hundred foot wall
is a shock bringing memories spinning.
I’m suddenly hot sensing humidity
Yucatan jungle, sweat trickling heat,
clinging to steps made for narrower feet.
I followed your lead, that journey your choice.
I remember you hid, leaving me scared
alone, calling out, hearing only my voice.
Why now, why excavate thoughts from the past
except to rejoice our love would not last.
He’d tat about and pull things in and out,
Put soggy cornflakes in cold cups of tea.
She’d rail at him but love him still and shout;
“Oh Trevor, loose it, leave it up to me.”
Whee-ee! Oo-oo! Train-shunting with the boys,
Who see no flaw in Grandad’s silly ways,
He’s on his knees playing stations with their toys,
Making mayhem, reprising childhood days.
She sits, head down, unaware of empty rooms,
The urine-scented bleakness, not a word.
She only knows she wants him home, and soon,
So that his mindless footsteps can be heard.
She only wants one thing, her childhood sweetheart there
And that’s the only thing she cannot bear.
Written at the January 2017 Bantock House workshop, with David Bingham, part of the Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival
through bare trees
to wooden arches
thorn bushes entwine
on a metal greenhouse
Two poems written as a response to the workshop
on ‘messages’ at Pant, October 2016.
Under My Skin
the blues band played loud and alive
the guitar singing into my bones
her voice shivering my skin.
we walk to the old quarry,
the cold creeps under my clothes
nipping at my fingertips
plucking at my bones.
At the top now,
coal black sheep
glisten in pale afternoon sun,
a jet-green conifer,
sinuous with blood-red bryony,
is tipsily tiara-ed in old man’s beard.
Jood Gough, Oswestry
out for a quiet drink in a Beirut bar.
bundled into a darkened car
driven up in to mountains.
Passed – sold –
from one unknown group to another
for what? for guns? for drugs?
for three long weeks you’re a hostage to chance.
I knew nothing
and even now I dare not imagine.
Maggie says yes to Reagan.
And then, Maggie says
yes, you can re-fuel your war planes here
chance turns a blind eye, and you are sold once again.
This time for revenge you are dumped
on a mountain pass.
You were there, before, when I needed you my friend.
But this time
not even my thoughts could reach to comfort you.
abducted the 28th March 1986,
abandoned just twenty days later
wrapped in a white blood-stained cloth,
hostage to a game of power
pawn in a vicious game of chess.
Jood Gough, Oswestry
The bodies of Philip Padfield, John Leigh Douglas, and Peter Kilburn – the “forgotten hostages” – were found on the 17th April 1986 on a street near the village of Ruweisat al Sofar near Beirut, after Thatcher allowed US planes to bomb Libya from British bases. The Revolutionary Organisation of Socialist Muslims claimed their execution as in retaliation for the US air raid on 15th April. The three men remain unacknowledged by the British government.
Pant Haiku – ‘Images of Summer’ workshop
lead by David Bingham, August 2016
the buzzing of bees
the singing of grasshoppers –
orchestrating the air
in the undergrowth –
summer curving away-
a climber leans out
from the cliff face
the severe pain of
last night’s argument –
this mornings rainbow
pin pricks of light
blossoming into stars –
wait for the new moon
Pant Workshop, February 2016
Far from away – they come – to Pant
to happenings in this space where nothing should;
hearing again the shush-shushing of childhood
in the wind that spins the corn to gold,
the porcine snuffle in straw and sticks
huff-puffing wolves on the Welsh border
trucks on narrow-gauge tracks
squealing and buffering
up the incline behind the Co-op shop
to a woodcutter’s cottage
now that the wolf has gone – except for
the unkissed frogs leaping out of nothingness;
extras in a flawed reality;
– God bless him – happy and gloriously
kissing goodbye to things as they are
invidious in uniform armband and jackboots…
But enough of this nonsense –
there’s a high-level meeting going on
in the treetops; jackdaws jawing
in a travesty of understanding;
in the good old days death was the punishment
A flurry of Lynx rotor blades
rattles rank upon rank of corn on the cob
a dead army –
Spare me the truth – I’m a chronic and habitual liar…
News has just come in of a beached whale at Grimsby –
Jonah is telling reporters how he was swallowed
fishing off Dogger Bank –
A wolf howl
scared of the silence
follows my bold footsteps
down an incline of unfolding myths…
Written at the October 2015 Pant Poetry Day
Walk with Me
Walk with me, if you will,
a woman who is gaining age
and losing time.
Come, if only to stretch your legs
and keep me company.
There are things to see here
much older than
my limbs and eyes,
more constant than
my fears and tribulations.
There are stones and hollows,
hardness that I hope your hearts
will never feel.
Rather the fire and constancy
of love that burns with passion.
There are pathways, lines and lanes
that run so straight and smooth.
But be watchful for roots
that cross to trip us up and
brambles, nettles out to sting.
The over-grown lime kiln
arches and bridges’ sturdy keystones,
provide but cynical cover
for the Budweiser boys and sad-oes
seeking lines of coke and drags of weed.
These are dangerous borders;
carefree steps give way to lives
in need of planning permission
and seeking Salvation Army
shoe and clothes collections.
Walk with me if you will.
Together let us gain some height
and share some time.
Come, if only to stretch your minds
and keep me in sane company.
Sustained Illusions on a Hill Farm
A big man Jack,
eyes of molten steel – hooded –
with a penchant for small rodents,
and Meg; a mouse-like woman
trapped into matrimony by a weakness for cheese
and big men from Caerphilly,
still rounding up stray sheep from last night’s count,
hanging onto the end of a landscape, thinking
how folding sheets was like
hanging onto both ends of an argument;
shaking out the wrinkles;
having it pulled from your grasp;
a landscape of hills and valleys ripped away.
Tread carefully. Get too close and your illusions
might shatter like a distressed mirror – each fragment
reflecting a different perspective; surrealism getting
nearer to an unfinished and incomplete truth.
As quiet as a mouse in gloves,
her sloe-black eyes burn holes in incomprehension:
Is silence understood as his inability to hear
the buzzards’ screech echoing round corners
in a kitchen of correction, climbing ledges
greasy from raptor kills, up to the battered farms,
the fragmented mirror where they’d ridden the
empty spaces of the night with every call
repeated in a scream, a scream
between them; a white scream
folding away again and again
into the blindness of lovers
in a close embrace.
January 2015 Pant Workshop Poems
Giving In To Winter
I know what you are trying to do,
Leading me up some familiar path,
To places I know all too well.
I know that tell-tale narrowing of the way,
The sliding back down,
Only to arrive at the man-made clearing above.
We think we can see the distant yonder,
Stretching out as clear as the Berwyn’s snow-capped tips,
But there’s a storm brewing and the curse of sleety promises.
The air can be as crisp as it likes,
And the view can take my bitter breath away,
But the cackle of sticks under foot will jolt me back into reality.
You and I, here, struggling in our winter weeds.
We have made it this far, through changing seasons,
So aren’t we worth a foray into other climbs?
I know what you are trying to do,
But we still have time to scale another vista,
Take in a broader, more far-reaching view.
solid and still
the children build you up
only to watch in tears
as the thaw runs away with the moon
Pat Edwards, Welshpool
Constantly staring down at my feet,
each tread, every foot step
in my swaying journey.
I’ve faced the ground in cruel environments;
hostile temperatures, earth fractured to dust
in the erosive wind, rain, sleet and snow.
My eyes fixed on the ground,
the path lit by beaming
search lights – only predicting
the next stride or two.
Struggling through bleak slippery mud,
I avoid iced puddles, frozen solid, hoary,
glittering pavements hazardous to my being.
I survive crossing roads, bridges,
tree roots, rocks and uneven slabs;
collecting coppers, notes, a diamond ear-ring
on my travels; people’s lost possessions.
I barely look forward or above;
my eyes search for comfort, a stability,
when all I have to lose is my balance.
Kuli Kohli, Wolverhampton
from sodden branches
tired of winter
the birds wait
for me to leave
at winter’s verge:
at your ears:
our first dance
Cherry Doyle, Cannock
Written at the October 2014 Pant Poetry Day
Past and Present
Explosions used to shatter the quarry,
marking the pulse of the day,
breaking the evening air,
Dust would settle on the morning,
muffling the sharp echoes
of pick on rock on rock on pick.
And all day the quarrymen
would hack, hack to make
a meal to feed the open mouths
of kilns, mixing quicklime
with burning skin and dying lungs.
But now, under an unexpected sun,
among silence and peregrines,
among the still ash trees, I perch
on ground that once stood
at the centre of the hill,
an absent hill where I add gradual turns
to a helix of limestone words,
growing a shell to protect this moment.
A Poem written at a Wolverhampton workshop
What is this thing called love? As time goes by,
The look of love, tender love, love is blue,
Love hurts, is this love? Love does not ask why.
You’re nobody, till somebody loves you.
True, dream lover, love is a mystery,
Love on your side, my funny valentine?
What now my love, wouldn’t it be lovely,
Long live love, dear heart, come rain or come shine.
Give a little love, love me or leave me.
A very precious love, let your love flow.
Bye, bye, love, whatever will be, will be,
Young love, will you still love me tomorrow?
A million love songs, let love lead the way.
This guy’s in love with you, that’s amore!
Written at the March 2014 Pant workshop
Having reached its adolescence
with declining attitude
we’re noticing that nature
is increasingly plain rude.
One minute it’s all sunshine
then, just like you’ve flicked a switch,
the darling child has now become
a real son-of-a-bitch.
It’s throwing all its weight about,
it’s running hot and cold,
you haven’t got a chance
that it will do as it is told.
It’s smashing trees and houses,
next thing, it’s in floods of tears,
and then, before you know it
we are all up to our ears.
The only thing to hope for
is that as the years go by
it will mellow, settle down
and begin to pacify.
So next time you seek shelter
from a storm that’s on the rage
just tell it that it’s high time
it began to act its age.
Today’s weather is a little hard to explain,
A little sunshine and a lot of rain.
I went for a wheel down Well House Lane,
I saw falling leaves,
Sweet violets and tulips swishing in the wind,
Holly that reminded me of Buddy and even the odd buttercup,
Cars rushing past.
By this point I was getting excited about getting my hands on a cup of coffee,
Yes, just simply to warm up.
There was even a clear blue sky,
Men cutting down trees of green,
Rather them than me,
I came across the cutest grey squirrel I have ever seen.
I also saw a black cow,
Well that’s all for now.
Tracy Jones, Oswestry
Poems from the November 2013 Pant workshop
Quiet of conifer.
Low winter sun trying
to gain a closer look
at the scurrying children
Limestone quarry face
glares back a blinding white:
climber’s fingers seeking a tight
enough crack to pull up his body
weight, and feed the rope
through the next crab.
Bethany Rivers, Newtown, Powys
One Small Rock
Here is a rock,
solid it stands beneath the cliff
in sunlight striped with sapling ashes.
It will greet you coldly if you sit on it;
it will annoy your thin soles if you climb on it.
So – here is a rock,
a spectrum of greys sprinkled
with white slight crystals,
where moss disguises edges that remain
even after the blunting of years
and where northern empires of lichen
spread away from the sun.
If I had the knowledge,
I could describe every detail
of its minerality and inhabitants;
but not its shape,
the shape of that single rock which escapes
the mathematics of precision.
Emily Pardo, Birmingham
Tied with orange wool
brown label on a bare branch.
Laura Jones class five.
Red boots on the step
rusting geckos on the wall.
Wind chimes play her song.
Bluebells in the woods
ice-ferns on the windows.
Swallows in the sky.
A house made of wind
in the arms of the trees.
Clothed in white blossom.
Ants climb stone mountains.
A galaxy of daisies
turn to face the sun.
Offa the giraffe
The giraffe is tall.
I like his spotty body.
It shines in the sun.
Laura Jones Class 5
three teenaged girls
bare-shouldered and bare-armed
huddle beneath the station roof
like ducklings beneath the river bank
watching raindrop static in the water
a tattooed man
his arms a map of his soul
chases a bouncing dog and is
devoured by the open carriage door
before the train slithers down the track
a chinese boy
tries repeatedly to ask
the unresponsive station guard
the way to platform three but he
is grey and graveyard-statue silent
an elderly woman
with chin-high buttoned coat
pulls bulging shopping-trolley luggage
as a child pulls a wooden train
as if she has mistaken here for Tesco
a wire-spectacled man
with food stains on his jacket
and shirt tails bidding for freedom
follows crazy-paving paths
that no one else but he can see
and I for my part
look to station board and track
in Wimbledon spectator motions
both inform me of the self-same truth
my train it seems is still delayed
Bob Hale, Coseley
Frozen paw prints join fashion trainer tracks,
partially covered by a mulch of leaves
cast aside by winter,
an artist bored with browns.
Leaving behind busy roads
still whooshing and roaring,
to feel the air biting my townie lungs
and stinging my vision.
Deep-ridged bark snuggles beneath ivy,
hart’s tongue bobbing at me, lush and slippery,
as I peer around ash, hazel, and dogwood
to see a lime-kiln chimney standing proud,
almost a poor man’s folly now.
Among ivory bricks
splashed with rust
are remnants of the human race,
ghost-like and depicted in metal.
The mist in the valley is icy blue,
and in places winter hardens well-trodden footpaths,
yet the catkins grow fat,
ready to dance into spring.
The truck’s out of control,
slipping sideways down the hill
towards iced-topped gates,
side bouncing off snow-filled trees,
factory dust mixing with crystal ice flakes
covering pavements and gutters
with metallic grey.
Brakes groan, skid, and smoke
as the driver stops his twenty-ton lorry.
Slurry, slush, and rock salt
lie beneath his wheels
and, off the clock, factory men wait for steel,
cold hands in pockets,
respect in every nod of their heads,
and a mug of tea for the driver.
Weighed down by stillages,
the forklifts’ bounce over
mounds of grit and impacted ice.
Wedges of ridged snow fall
from the defrosting factory roof.
Silvia Juliet Millward, Willenhall
it’s spring in your nan’s front room
floral curtains with budding pinks and yellows
a hyacinth from Tesco on the sideboard
next to pictures of the grandkids
it’s spring all year round
green grass carpet planted with a pouffe centrepiece
the roses on her slippers blending into bouquet armchairs
thick brown tights edge the beds
her legs, from under blossomed skirt
peek, slight as fledglings
Meave Haughey, Smethwick
finally it’s here.
The season’s sprung
with the lustre of magnolia.
Stellata shines through the evening gloom,
lighting the room
where I sit and stare,
at the chair;
where you sat,
until this day last year.
Roger Noons, Dudley
Note: I always think it’s doubly sad when tragedy occurs on a memorable day, e.g. when a loved one dies on Christmas Day. But there are events as well as dates that make something memorable, or in a sense, unforgettable. The flowers of the Magnolia stellata in our back garden seem to burst forth on the same date in the middle of March each year. For me it’s the herald of spring.
The wind is a scream and the numbed finger points.
“Look!” says a small boy, and the exclamation,
bruised from over-use and the wild weather,
echoes round the rock face of his mind.
“That’s where Grandad bought it. Paid the price.”
And on a bare ledge, brambled and alone,
the bleached bones pull themselves together
in a self-embracing rattle and somehow we know
words won’t do; the poetry here is unconventional;
no word entirely suitable to voice the harshness of this face,
no note the violence of the score.
The ancestral march of boots in unison; grandads, fathers
sons and brothers, tread to the tick of eternity’s clock.
A dapple of sunlight, a banter of jokes, a spit of obscenity,
crunching of boots. The crannied face is blushed
with blood of men and boys and, stupidly, we grope
and grovel in the dust of centuries half-expecting answers
to creep up on us from behind, while overhead
a wild symphony of sea-shelled beginnings and fossilised fish
washes over the cracks and crevasses in life’s stone book.
Geoff Williams, Pant
You change your clothes with the seasons
flamboyant in the latest shades and tones.
You mock me in my jaded green –
plain Jane is my nickname.
So flaunt your fire agates
your ambers and rubies too.
Make the most of your hour of glory,
because I’ve got news for you!
In weeks your golden apparel
will be, as the emperor’s new clothes,
lying in tatters around you –
pride comes before a fall!
When, naked, you face the winter
I’ll still be cloaked in green:
emerald is never out of season.
Nicky Hetherington Abermule
On the land
On each new day a brand-new leaf unfolds,
presents us with a clean page, a fresh start.
Our grandfathers worked hard with scythe and blade,
tamed wild land with horse and plough and cart.
To accommodate their oversized machines
our fathers wrenched the hedges from the fields.
With herbicides and pesticides and more
they straight-jacketed nature to raise yields.
I see them planting new hedges today,
and dandelions push up amongst the hay,
Is this the start of a new stewardship,
‘Sustainability’ on every lip?
Nicky Hetherington, Abermule