By Stephen Kingsnorth


It was summer when she passed -
we knew come spring she would not last.

But as fresh buds broke from dead wood,
the tree stump bark cork cambium
erupted, unexpected growth,
we set our minds to recreate,
wrapped in those tie-dyes, student years,
free spirited, our crazy route -
wherever wheels led, patchwork quilt.

The golden beetle, sixties beat,
with petals painted engine end,
exhausted smoke, herbaceous mist,
above tired tyres, poor tarmac grip,
we blared our Massachusetts air.

Amongst pricked gorse of butter milk,
where heather bushed in purple rug,
and ling blushed swags for peewit wings,
we reminisced on heath surrounds
with lizard whips and butterflies.

We lay on turf, moss bed of peats,
shared sunbathe near an adder brood
and watched the glare drop from our earth
as cool pulled lower down the snake
in the question mark, our beading eyes,
saw what we knew dreamt, hoped and felt.

May we stay here in cling sarongs,
two folds, but one in chrysalis,
a swaddling band for pyre cloth,
await the dew on resting eyes,
a serene ending, all our days?


I dusted coal soot from the sill
and came across the brittle bee,
stuck, desiccated, frosted pane.
And yet, with yoghurt, muesli dish, -
a bowl of porridge not amiss -
I plunged my fork deep in the pot
and spooned gold honey onto mix.

The jams and pickles, sloe gin jars -
ghoul specimens of organs, blood -
thank God for vinegar preserve,
a promise realised before.
Those languorous, drawn heady days
of elderflower, drone buzzy gnats,
will come gain, blaze summer tastes.

For now, past future on the shelves,
swelt sweating stove for spreading loaf,
float gherkins, onions, sweet with cheese,
a ploughman’s grubby hand from sheaves,
slow thaw, then other layered snow
cannot remove year’s heavy brew,
sure harvest cycle, budding soon.


The bulbs above -
their filaments,
the broken joints of spider legs -
hang lazy, washing on the line,
a sad parade unheeded now,
awaiting switch of energy,
spark generation of the sun.

The bulbs below -
first snowdrops show,
hint cream and green above the snow,
the phototroph, explosive strength,
breaks crystal ice of brittle soil.
Then corms of crocus, specie, grow,
pale mauve or streaked,
bear stripes of war
from battle through harsh undergrowth,
spark generation of the sun.

Mother’s Fixed

My saving’s pot, tobacco jar,
Greek frieze surround, without a lid,
dark corner shelf, unknown to girls,
where I secreted pennies earned,
or sixpences at Christmas time.
As sisters, Dad neared party time
I emptied it, gave some to Mum,
and she would buy the birthday gift,
as I was busy, climbing trees.
As Guy Fawkes loomed - for that her day
and shops displayed their firework stock,
I knew the choice was mine alone
and from the range of rockets, Pains,
feared jumping jacks and Catherine wheels,
the sparklers, stardust, golden rain,
I had to find a simple thing.
No diamond fire or flaming ring,
nor lipstick pick from carmine, pink,
but varnished wood, a hairclip, brooch,
in modest box with ribbon string.
But that year, nineteen sixty four,
scrambling at night for coin store
I tripped, smashed treasure on the floor;
so mother’s prize was tube of glue
to fix that jar, her father’s love,
the one, Greek frieze about the rim.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church with Parkinson’s Disease, has had some 300 pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, most recently Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Parliament Literary Magazine, Runcible Spoon, Poetry Potion, Ariel Chart Literary Journal. 

4 thoughts on “Swaddling and Other Poems

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