The Poetry Kit MAGAZINE

 

POETRY PROJECT

   
     

 

CALENDAR

a poetry sequence by Jim Bennett (JB) and Lesley Burt  (LB)

 

Tuesday 1st December 2009

JB


it is cold today
the tree wet -  still dripping with
last nights rain

a gull -  wings wide
sweeps across the garden
on an icy draught

clouds split and drift
like geese flying to the south

This is where December starts
with the cold ache of winter
and my jacket
on your shoulders

LB

This looks like the end:
bare earth, bare trees
midnight sky at breakfast time.

Then a redbreast glow
eases across the horizon.
Roosting starlings
shake themselves awake

on twigs that were green
only weeks ago,
and will be again
in time to conceal nests,
eggs, fledglings.
 

Wednesday 2nd December 2009

JB


in the city centre
the bare braches of trees
cling on to abandoned nests
twigs and grass unweaving

on the ground
pigeons forage for crumbs
thrown from breakfast tables

you should not feed them
the cafe owner says

but I know that
and do it anyway
even pigeons get hungry

 

LB


A radio presenter
says the full moon is setting
in the west right now.
I must see for myself
before breakfast;
slip on Crocs.

Three-storey houses block sky
but not the gleam, distinct
from streetlights’ orange.

Drawn like a tide,
I slop towards it,
past rooftops,
through dark puddles
in bumpy tarmac.

The silver circle:
more magical
than Christmas lights.
I forget wet feet.
 

Thursday 3rd December 2009

JB

 

the moon is full tonight
round and bright
pregnant with Christmas

cirrus ice crystals
hang around it
in a halo

clouds stream across its face
like fingers making shapes
to bring shadows alive

crepuscular red tints
scratch at the horizon
hint at dawn
on 3rd of December
 

LB

Leaden sky delays dawn;
although the radio alarm
croons Bing’s delivery
of the familiar lyric,
it is just rain again.

I post the annual cards –
decorated with snowflakes,
skaters, frosted pines –
to Australia and Jamaica.

They know as well as I:
images of Christmas
depend on polar weather.

 

Friday 4th December 2009

LB

The moon is unsymmetrical
this morning, yet lingers
beyond dawn to flaunt
its near-roundness
in glittering sunlight
and almost-cloudless sky.

As if I could rely on permanence,
as if it were a fixture like a lamp,
I am disappointed
when I look again and find
it has slipped out of view
behind a neighbour’s roof.
 

JB

now we launch into the day
into shops and crowds
and throbbing checkouts

the Christmas Trees
have been in store for a while
but now they are appearing
in house windows

we spend longer than planned
and more than intended
but it doesn’t matter
shops are brighter
the evening darker

 

Saturday 5th December 209

LB

 

The Priory, built

to worship a distant spirit;

its stone, excavated

from Earth’s warm belly.

 

Inside, candles’ glow

takes the chill

from arches and statues;

celebrates human life,

and the certainty

of daylight’s expansion

after the solstice.

 

 

 

 

JB

 

Tesco’s is crowded

people shuffling into gaps

to move along isles

avoiding trolleys

used as battering rams

 

trolleys piled high

wait to be checked out

we decide on a coffee

and decide to wait

until Monday for our shopping

 

in the car park queues of vehicles

wait for spaces

we walk home

looking at Christmas lights

lining the road

 

Sunday 6th December 2009

JB

 

in the Methodist church

on Telegraph Road

parishioners sing

modern hymns

to the ancient God

 

next to it in the village hall

people preparing for

an attic sale later in the afternoon

 

outside traffic queues along the road

to get into

Marks and Spenser’s food hall

 

and on the street corner

someone in white face

dressed in a long white shroud

stands on a box still as a statue

 

we go home

have porridge

and wait for the children

to come home from last nights

parties

 

LB

 

A whole section of Gardenlands,

stacked with Christmas trees:

Nordman, Norway Spruce.

 

We browse through prickly boughs,

pull some out to check size and shape,

choose a Fraser Fir;

and to crown it:

a bejewelled gold star.

 

Surrounded by glitter,

seasonal scents,

wide-eyed tots trotting

out of Santa’s grotto with parcels,

we stop to look at his pair of reindeer.

 

They nose in their hay

looking earthbound and dejected,

without tinsel entwined in antlers,

and no sleigh in sight.




 

Monday 7th December 2009

JB

 

 

I am counting pavement cracks

wondering why

it seems more difficult

to side-step them now

it used to be the tarmac waves

and all made up strategies

needed to avoid them

other times it was other things

 

elastic bands

and identifying birds and trees

 

now I make up jokes

like “what do you do

when you find a cyclist

lying on the road”

and pretend it never happened

when I hear the lacking punch line

“recycle him”

maybe I’ll just count the cracks

LB

 

 

I had forgotten this:

the silky feel

of sifted flour on fingers;

the delicious way

it combines with butter

into a soft gravel;

 

ice-cold water added

with metal spoon;

stirring, kneading, shaping;

the satisfaction

of rolling out pastry,

cutting it to size;

 

heaped teaspoons

of mincemeat,

powdery grit of caster sugar,

heat from opened oven;

scents of Christmas

pervading my kitchen.

 

Tuesday 8th December 2009

JB

 

walking alongside the sandstone face

carved by ice  that once passed this way

it could be like looking into a fire

the shapes mean whatever

you want them to mean

 

me I see a sun bright summers day

corn fields waving in the breeze

waiting to be turned into a maze

and over there a barn

where you can buy a cup of tea

 

but it's not

it's sandstone nothing else

and it's winter - and it's cold

and I want to get home

leave the sandstone wall

looking like whatever it wants

until next time

 

LB

 

A gust of sunshine reveals

my shadow, narrow,

three times longer than my body.

 

I follow its steady progress

while taking care

to not avoid walking

on the cracks in paving.

 

Slabs are uneven, broken,

threaten to twist ankles;

I generally walk under ladders too.

 

Wednesday 9th December 2009

LB   

 

McKays’ windows

display party dresses:

black, red, royal blue,

weighty with sequins.

 

Shoppers pause, gaze,

drawn like moths

from outdoors gloom

towards fairy-lights.

Crowds squeeze

between rows of clothes.

 

A teenager browses

low-cut camisoles,

mini-skirts, lace tights;

her mother holds

a velvet jacket

against her bosom,

hanger hook pressing

her ample chin;

they both hurry

into fitting rooms. 

JB

 
in the sky this morning
the only clouds
were five red
contrail lines

there seem to be more
each day

here though many planes fly low
to land in Manchester
or Speke

on warm dry evenings
I sit outside
watch as they fly over
wonder about them

but this afternoon it rained
as the table and chairs
were finally packed away
until Spring

 

Thursday 10th December 2009

LB

 

 M & S basement:

Aladdin’s cave stacked with games –

Pub Quiz, Ready-Steady-Cook;

three-for-two gifts –

gardening gloves with trowel,

whiskey with tumbler, cheese with knife;

lengths of tinsel; boxes of baubles?

 

Or windowless labyrinth

under the glare

of headache-inducing strip-lights,

with threat at every turn

from battering-ram trolleys;

and checkout queues,

each an undulating, fire-breathing

dragon, the length of an aisle.

 

JB

 

we got the boxes from the storage

checked some of them

the familiar faces of Christmas

wrapped in last year's newspaper

waiting unchanged to sit on table

mantelpiece and shelf

strings of lights to be checked

and strung around the tree

baubles to be dusted

swags and candle holders

door wreath and table runners

to be placed or hung

dressed or strung

and in its box the small nativity scene

almost lost in the middle of it all

 

Friday 11th December 2009

JB

 

from a perch on the arm of a streetlight

a sparrowhawk stares at the distant field

 

something must have caught its eye

some movement in the grass

some creature foraging

 

along the road vans and lorries

make their slow way towards the shops

 

above them the sparrowhawk

continues to watch

 

LB

 

Hard to believe so long ago:

my birthday would herald

purchase of Christmas tree  

and annual reading

of ‘A Christmas Carol’;

Nicki and I read

alternate pages;

Martin, older, escaped

to play Marillion,

Black Sabbath.

 

Each evening, Nicki ensured

her turn would include

favourite passages:

door-knocker and Marley’s face;

food stacked around

the Spirit of Christmas Present;

Scrooge’s transformation.

From upstairs,

steady bass thrum:

all well with our world.

 

Saturday 12th December 2009

LB

 

No white streets

here in the soft south;

no frosted windowpanes

or frozen ponds with skaters

in bobble-hats and mittens;

no snowmen and shovels,

slithering, sledges,

and shimmering forests.

 

This is an indoors,

cotton-wool mid-winter:

pine trees in houses,

smothered with tinsel stars,

glass icicles, pale angels.

We shake domes

to see flakes fall

from false skies

onto plastic Santas.

 

 

JB

 

the garden centre has become

the Christmas shop

with inflatables for the roof

and twisted shapes that light up

into sleighs and nodding

reindeer to be fixed to walls

trees pre-lit and decorated

ready to install

 

a plastic and tinfoil

Christmas from a box

is available for

the time challenged

who are all here today

crowding shoulder to shoulder

 

on our way home we realise

we were returning empty handed

the poinsettia we set out for

left on the shelf next to the artificial

flowers

 

Sunday 13th December 2009

LB

 

We stop-start-stop in traffic

beside the school field,

rear seats and boot

stacked with presents and food.

 

Swans finally left

draining flood water;

lingering pools reflect –

almost double –

about five hundred gulls

puddling among sodden tussocks;

and fifty oyster catchers

scattered among them,

drilling mud with orange bills.

 

Two rooks end their haughty strut,

forget foraging, to bathe,

splash, without inhibition.

 

JB

 

today we decorate the tree

stretch out the swags

and stand the father Christmases

on duty

 

the front window

figures smile out to the world

 

inside we remember

where all this stuff used to go

the ghosts of rooms

that used to be our \Christmas

 

Monday 14th December 2009

JB

 

today for my birthday

I received a bird feeder stand

a great device with four hooks

with dangling feeders

for the garden birds

 

at the moment it is all put together

standing in the corner

by the Christmas tree

 

but not a bird in sight

 

LB


Darwin Avenue,
lined both sides with bungalows:
until my second Christmas,
a track through woodland.
 
Forces returned to civvy street.
The Council took one side;
lined asbestos prefabs in threesomes
along alleyways at right-angles to the road
like studio poses of triplets
in matching outfits.
 
You would think they were all the same:
matching concrete paths,
chain-link fences, front lawns,
sheds at the back.
 
But next-door kept weedy tussocks,
brambles, an odd clump of heather;
we grew potatoes, raspberries,
runner beans, a trellis
of Dorothy Perkins roses.
 
By the fire, every December,
my dad said when he was just my age,
Santa passed by his house
because he stayed awake.

 

Tuesday 15th December 2009

JB

 

you came in and locked the winter outside

shook the cold from your coat

stood warming your back against the fire

 

your beard tangled like roots

lying dormant waiting for the spring

hands shrink as you remove your gloves

 

boots dripping as the snow melts

head back you laugh like thunder

your eyes flash like lightening

 

I saw you I know I did

heard animals outside as you

eat your mice pie – drunk your milk

 

next morning there was nothing to see

presents - a few crumbs – some crushed snow

a small damp patch in front of the fire

 

the dog got the blame for that

I was told that although Santa was real

I must have been dreaming

 

LB

 

A dunnock descends,

softly as a moth;

picks its way through seeds

dropped by starlings and blue-tits

from a suet-filled coconut shell.

 

In light dimmed by drizzle,

backcloth of  winter-brown shrubs,

no colours contrast with its feathers;

it is distinguished only by

watchful turning of its head

and flickering progress

along the wall.

 

Wednesday 16th December 2009

JB

 

at the Pier Head

there are statues

of people on horses

 

sinewy muscular horses

looking ready to thrash

across the car park

 

ready to hack through

Albert Dock and Liverpool One

ready to bray and snort

 

tramp over Christmas crowds

with bronze feet until finally

it unravels in Church Street

  

LB

 

We mask midwinter –

year’s close –

with fairy-lights and candles;

 

banish darkness from towns,

by filling shops, streets, homes

with twinkling colours;

 

string lifetimes together

along loops of tinsel,

reflections in silver bells;

 

hang baubles,

bright as summer flowers.

 

Thursday 17th December 2009

JB

 

some people like Christmas

are able to throw off winter

bend towards the light

and reveal themselves

blooming on the shortest days

 

others take on a shroud

shrivel in the cold   feign death

pretend that it is some sort

of life

 

Dickens knew that

and his words

strung together were sung

to the music of a human heart

 

LB

 

Beside the Festival Hall,

the bronze bust of Mandela

watches passers-by hunch

against stinging snow flurries. 

 

No-one stops to meet his gaze:

too cold; besides,

everyone is used to his presence.

 

Serene in advancing years,

wears the same expression while

designer heels click,

homeless drunks stagger and swear.

 

Friday 18th December 2009

JB

 

the green man

casts off his leaves

takes up his red coat

 

his laughter shakes

root and branch

as he gathers up the night

to make it last forever

 

then for some reason

he decides to sit in a chair

in the corner

in Lingham's Bookshop

 

LB

 

Grandma used to complain

my birthday is too close

to Christmas;

I never dared retort

there are two full weeks between

and anyway,

it is hardly my fault.

 

Too late now to tell her

I enjoy cashing in

on the seasonal atmosphere.

No-one born in May, June or January

gets streets and shops decorated

every year.

 

 

 

 

Saturday 19th December 2009
LB

 

New neighbours arrive

with small van;

strew pavement and drive

with chairs and chests.

 

Their breath billows white

into the chill

as they haul

boxes, buckets, toys inside.

 

Just as gulls fly

back to the coast

across pink-and-grey streaked sky,

and starlings settle to roost,

they close their new front door.

 

 

JB

 

Emma's bed had Allen key fittings

recessed screws

that won a prize for design

and which once fitted

were not intended ever

to be taken out again

and so each one took an hour

to remove

 

Harry’s bed is smaller

because he is

and was easily moved out

in one piece

but could not be taken upstairs

in the new house

so it was left on the driveway

for three hours while

the screws were struggled with

 

I think it would be a good idea

to take the prize back

and buy a new bed

 

 

Sunday 20th December 2009

JB

 

out of church

then out with Charlie

up to the Beacons

to search in the trees

 

looking for the leaching

mistletoe to bring home

to decorate the architrave

and make you smile

 

white beads of berries

lying draped on the branches

cascading through the fork

like legs stretched  wide

 

a balm to bring fertility

a Christian symbol

to redeem it

but for me I just want

to steal your kiss

 

 

LB

 

Every year

I listen to the ancient story;

 

remember elders

who scoffed at the myth of the stable,

boiled puddings in a copper,

were glad of a day’s holiday;

 

and those who whispered it

like a prayer

in hope I might believe;

 

people before I existed,

who knelt at midnight,

thought it the heart of Christmas;

 

even earlier, those who knew

the turning of the year,

resting earth about to stir.

 

Whether or not it is true,

I must hear it told

in the same words every year.

 

 

Monday 21st December 2009

JB

 

 

it’s dawn

frost and gales

bring in a day

where light is trapped

in the darkening clouds

 

today is Yule - the solstice

when the sun child is born

when the world is renewed

the start of the twelve days

of Yuletide and the last

of the shortening days

 

long frozen nights

of winter still ahead

but the spring is coming

with the lengthening day

the spring is coming

 

 

LB

 

Fine sleet dims

the brief daytime

of the solstice.

 

Last night’s fat, yellow

crescent moon is waxing,

even though out of sight

beyond the overcast horizon.

 

We trust that crocuses

are stirring even now under

a flimsy layer of frozen snow.

 

Funny how the darkest day,

with no sign of sunlight,

is also time to grow;

a promise, a beginning,

a feast-time.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 22nd December 2009

LB

 

We bring out photos

that track family history

through years of Christmas Days:

various sofas, kitchens,

hairstyles, fashions;

 

the children posed with Santa Claus

in stores in different towns,

and opening presents

beside all sizes of  Christmas tree.

 

One where everyone is singing

and ‘playing’ The Twelve Days...

on inflatable guitars and saxophones

we bought in April, in Memphis.

 

And this one where, on the day,

I had not seen that my mother

already looked like a ghost.

 

 

JB

 

berries fallen from the holly

wreath on the door lie in the snow

 

red as the bauble

on our Christmas tree

red as the blazing Tesco sign

red as Father Christmas’s

Coca Cola Coat

 

the plastic coated

polystyrene berries

lie there bright

against the white snow

ignored by the birds

 

that peck at the seed

we scatter for them

 

 

Wednesday 23rd December 2009

LB

 

Rain fell and froze in the night:

by sunrise, streets are littered

with battered cars, injuries,

emergency services.

 

Our cul-de-sac tarmac, glossy;

patio an ice-rink,

trees and wrought-iron chairs

decorated with solid drops.

 

Frantic blackbirds fly back and forth,

tail feathers frosted white.

 

I throw them handfuls

of sultanas and crushed walnuts.

 

One perches and parades the fence;

moves only to chase away his rival;

dares not descend, eat

and risk his superior position.

 

 

JB

 

it’s snowing

and the streets are

already covered in ice

 

Stan Getz plays

on my CD player

 

blows notes that curve

like the snow that falls

and follows shapes

at the edge of the wind

 

it snow dances now

a Bossa Nova rhythm

 

in a while we decide

we will walk to the shops

doing our own ice waltz

a dance of slide

and stagger

 

maybe we should listen

to some swing instead

to get us in the mood

 

Thursday 24th December 2009

LB

 

Buzz of traffic

diminishes to distant doze

barely audible above

humming computer.

 

Everyone heads home,

prepares food,

wraps last-minute gifts;

 

in the expectant hush,

I gaze at a blank screen.

 

JB

 

the shopping's done

the freezer packed

the children annoying

all just as it should be

 

the presents for tomorrow

are hidden

and I check the crib

the manger empty

 

the model baby in a drawer

waiting to be put in place

when we come home

to hot chocolate

and toasted fruit loaf

after our midnight service

 

it must be Christmas

 

Friday 25th December 2009

LB

 

Seven gold candles

at the centre

shine for the four

sitting round them,

and a generation

who used to

eat Christmas dinner

at the very same oak table.

 

We toast their memories

and ourselves;

pull crackers,

don silly paper crowns

and laugh at the jokes

they used to call ‘mottos’.

The flames flicker

until we snuff them.

 

 

JB

 

I woke this morning to presents

and preparations for Christmas dinner

emails texts and phone calls

to children and grandchildren

 

outside the snow is melting

into pools of dirty grey slush

the roads are quiet

 

I get a black rubbish bag

collect up the screwed balls

of wrapping paper

 

put the two books

we already have to one side

to be changed after Christmas

the shirts to be tried on

to the bedroom

new slippers in the corner

old slippers in the bag

 

among the TV commercials

shouting some sort of Christmas

a choir is singing about

the birth of Jesus

and I am being told

the sprouts are nearly done

 

Saturday 26th December 2009

LB

 

Marilyn lives with

rheumatoid arthritis,

mental ill-health

and learning disabilities;

 

leans on her sticks

at the Day Centre gate

to look for someone she thinks

she once met in Australia;  

he will take her away from ‘all this’;

 

eats oranges while she waits,

for their sunshine;

sometimes forgets to allow time

for the painful journey to the toilet.

 

She does not mind Christmas

except for its colours:

red and green hurt

eyes and thoughts;

she prefers blue and gold.

 

 

 

JB

 

out for a walk with Charley

the houses shops and people

all hung-over

gathering a gloom

about them

 

the sky is blue today

the sun bright and clear

we walk our familiar route

 

on the common

a life-size snowman

reduced to the last small

block of ice

 

the crisp snow

melted

turns the field to mud

 

 

Sunday 27th December 2009

LB

 

All crackers are pulled,

presents unwrapped,

empty bottles await recycling,

relatives gone home.

 

Bins overflow with empty boxes,

balled-up red-and-gold paper;

Hoover-bag fat

with crumbs and pine needles;

fridge loaded with leftovers,

bellies stuffed, heads fuzzy.

 

Obvious quietness fills

all spaces in the house.

 

JB

 

three generations of family:

my children

their children

the married

the soon to be married

sit around the table

 

stars and angels

made from pipe cleaners

vie with the plastic favours

from the crackers

 

we put on paper hats

and read the cracker jokes

like we always do

 

some of my children

are elsewhere

one is sitting with his own family

in Wales

I have a text from him

they are having a good day

 

wearing paper hats

telling cracker jokes

like they always do

 

 

Monday 28th December 2009

JB

 

someone invented a bank holiday

to make up for the fact that

a day off fell on a day off

so they had another day off

to make up for it

 

so today is a day off

Keara is off to watch football

 

we sitting at home

watch Star Trek

 

then wander along to Costa

where they never have

a day off

not even when it is

officially a day off

 

 

LB

 

In next-door-but-one,

annual Christmas drinks

for neighbours.

 

Chatter, between doorbell chimes:

concerns and irritations

of elderly parents;

nuisance neighbours

who moved on.

 

Someone spills red wine

on beige carpet:

hostess kneels with paper towels,

wet cloths; we all advise.

Splash of white wine,

vigorous scrub;

enthusiastic congratulations

 on stain removal.

 

With dishes of crisps, nuts, olives,

conversation turns to local hotels;

I say, much as I enjoy

Captain’s Club cordon bleu menu

and crab sandwiches,

I miss summer families

at the Pontin’s it replaces;

smile at everyone’s disapproval.

 

Tuesday 29th December 2009

LB

 

Raining, dark, cold.

We stay in, get ready

for a new year.

 

furniture reconfigured,

bookshelves rearranged,

language CDs lined up

to revise for excursions

(if we ever dare fly,

since threat has reared again).

 

Now the filing cabinet

shows a different side

I move magnetic poetry.

First words up:

 

summer

what

how

 

JB

 

yesterday

I had pulled the bin out

down the back entry

onto the pavement

 

the neighbour

two doors away

who had sent cards

"to everyone at number one

from all at number five"

no names

just the safe anonymity of a number

 

they had not seen the change

of day for putting out bins

or had forgotten

 

I dragged their bins out

to join mine on the pavement

 

this morning I heard a noise

by the garden door

 

through the window

saw the man from number five

put my bin back in its place

 

he looked up saw me and waved

then retreated back

into anonymity

 

 

Thursday 30th December 2009

JB

 

sitting in Cafe Nero

looking out onto the square

 

some people looking for bargains

others taking things back

 

in the trees strings of blue lights

hang from branches

 

where starlings watch

as a shop worker removes

 

Christmas decorations

from a window

 

replacing them with posters

“up to 50% off”

 

we drink up our coffee

and go off to find a bargain

 

 

 

 

LB

 

In Comet, the same cartoon

showing on twenty or thirty screens,

crowded escalators

clambering between floors;

 

gold-shirted staff

collared at every display cabinet

by customers impatient to buy

anything labelled in knockdown red;

 

T-shirted staff with trolleys

shunting cartons

from stockrooms to cars.

 

This is the way the year ends:

the noise of spending

and whisper of debt

 


 

 

Thursday 31st December 2009

JB

 

it is cold today
the tree dripping with
last night's rain

in the garden birds are finding

the new bird feeder

 

we can stand here awhile

identifying the birds

and looking at the chasing clouds
 

tomorrow the start

of a new year

but for today
this is where December ends
with the cold ache of winter
and my jacket once more
lying on your shoulders

 

LB

 

This is the year’s end:

sodden earth, dripping trees,

central heating on overtime

throughout the dark day.

 

Blackbird on roof sees

me throw sultanas onto patio;

in rivals’ absence, dives and feeds.

Pied wagtail picks, pecks,

whirrs through puddles on thread-legs.

 

Already green shoots show.

I can see them if I only

pull away last summer’s

leftover stalks, twigs, dead leaves.

 

 

 

 



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