By Stephen Kingsnorth

Body Language

Reflecting on Painting: The Woman taken in Adultery
Why does he lower face,
join the woman in down-cast eyes,
when the other men point with their
calculating, tricky, digit stares?
They unbent, he questions, bends again.
Why does he lower frame,
join the woman's down-cast norm,
when the other men stand so firm,
bold, strong, cloaked forms?
Is it to give them time to think,
enable them not to lose face,
enable them to lower theirs,
melt, slide, slink away,
before he, with her, stands again?
They are gone,
but he, straightened, there,
with scribbled, scratched and scrawled sand
about his feet, around the ground.
How interesting that the censor's pen
excised the story, printer's trim.
Calculating, tricky, digit stares of
bold, strong, cloaked norms
cannot stand sand scribbling.
Crouching woman, better bowed, cowed -
the body language speaks too loud.


Where have all the whistles gone,
gap toothed, vain blow from bulbous cheeks,
the early learning, testing airs,
when suction breath and hollowed lips,
caused waver tune, but unknown how,
initiation, older lads,
as mother’s Light hummed Housewives’ Choice?
I guess they left when dawdle passed,
like climbing trees and running grass
despite the keeper’s keep off plate,
before the wolf came to that door.
I did not know what qwerty was -
though sister would from typing pool;
I called by trunk (and sent ahead,
now mind has switched to college lawns),
when mobile was the library
and cells reserved for gaol time.
Where have all the whistles gone?

Give ’em Stick

As boy, my pencil, rubber tipped,
more often gouged than scribble flowed,
turned, flipped and flopped, rewritten script,
bore leaden weight, graphite HB.
As sisters came home battered legs,
a greenstick, jolly hockey match,
I opted solo stuttered sport,
long footrest poles, not pogo, stilts.
Then campfire twigs, marshmallow drips,
pink-grey blobs mottled by the ash,
a polka dot, best gunk design,
as waning moon hid syrup grit.
To light the wood I played with fire,
safe tinder box, dipped phosphor style,
and though rebuked, words did not hurt -
my stony silence spoke a lot.
In later years, new stick in hand,
gripped weapon thrashing nettle rash,
to swipe the trespass on my land,
that swirling end, black ferrule cat.
The Styx will soon with Charon man,
a ferry floating, carry on,
but pick up sticks, like my old man,
still knick-knack playing on my drum.


Loud voices soothe to murmur sighs,
wool nimbus clouds spin, lined with gold,
cumulo murmurations claim
last acrobatic swirl display
against the brooding blood screen sky.
Flit flight of polkas merge in play,
fledge starlings search their lodging ledge,
oil speckled green, stab beaks lie down,
when birds dream guano, cushion nest,
and stooping threat of sparrowhawks.
As morning star hails day’s decline,
the plough dips still, plods weary home,
signs, zodiac, rotate, foretell,
as whispered conversations spell
transit, the glory of dusk space.

Home Truths

Why stare at clouds, depth outer space,
as though a rescue from on high,
anointed one, delivery
diving down, intervention in?
We have the means, the gifts, the grace,
an alchemy to turn the base
and share the spell’s ingredients
for a messiah in ourselves.
Those samples spread through lore of earth,
to placate wrath, child sacrifice,
or send to wilderness a scape,
the goat and the burial of
guilt with touching ceremony.
But pass the buck, avoid blunt truth
that anger is not bought by blood,
but fear is born and raised in us?
In everyone is shaft of hope,
for every infant holding light,
a fragile candle, flame of warmth
would grow as it is nurtured, loved.
So end this glare; the prospect close -
our peers whose faces cross our path,
as hell or paradise is ours,
an inner sight, bright image sown.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over 170 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, including Academy of the Heart and Mind, printed journals and anthologies.  

6 thoughts on “Body Language and Other Poems

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