3 poems by Neil Leadbeater

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE SMOG IN THE FLIGHT-LINE
(With apologies to Mark Haddon)

At BCN

coming in to land

we met it –

a wall of impenetrable obscuration

visibility near-to-nil

and then the runway

clear as 20/20

the pilot surprised as the rest of us

at the nearness of solid ground.

You put down the book 

you were reading

and, having fun with the title,

changed the words

to mark the moment:

our safe arrival in Spain.

MISS SWATMAN SUPERVISING PLAYGROUND GAMES

All smiles

in a striped top and belted slacks

she’d spring us

words of encouragement

as we lined up for 

our first leap in the light.

Stooping and crouching

on all fours

we became each other’s

vaulting-horse.

This was our leaping time

the moment we discovered

by working in pairs

that we could take the weight

off each other’s feet

and fast forward

slick as frogs

to whatever lay ahead.

FIVE BOVINE SONGS

“All cattle are descended from as few as eighty animals that were domesticated from wild ox or aurochs in Iran some 10,500 years ago, according to recent genetic studies.”

– John Lewis-Stempel: Meadowland.

The Longhorn

Recognition should not be difficult.

Police assemble an identikit

facial features with big horns.

“Last seen wearing a brown and white coat.

Size XL.  Believed to be from

Northern England –

Cowpen to be exact.”

Have you seen this animal?

The South Devon

In no hurry, they lurch

round the Landrover, 

are jaw-slack and udder-heavy

dribble saliva 

straight off their tongues.

Even with the windows up

we smell their breath:

damp oats thick as hay.

The farmhand raises a stick in salute.

We start the engine, 

release the brake,

move on.

The Hereford

Beyond these pastorals, Masefield’s “red land

…good for hops and roses” they have the

Mapa Mundi right beneath their feet…

are globe-trotters easily led

because of their disposition.

Herd by herd they hug the fields – 

a team effort re-enacted

in every part of the globe.

The Belted Galloway

Facts I learned about the Belted Galloway:

That the belt is a white stripe around the middle.

That it is a polled breed.

That it is well-suited for rough grazing.

That it has a thick double-layered coat.

That its hair “sheds out” in summer.

That it is long-lived.

That it exists in numerous colours.

That it is well-adapted to harsh climates.

That it has no horns.

That this is all I know.

The Polled British White

Today we could not see you for snow

you were colourless in the blizzard.

I imagine you motionless – 

your breath fired down

into frozen ground:

a blank page waiting for a word

which is a long time coming.

About the contributor

Neil Leadbeater is an author, essayist, poet, and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland. His latest publication is 'Penn Fields' (Littoral Press, 2019). His work has been translated into several languages.

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