Andrew Kerr studied creative writing at Aberdeen University. His poetry has been published in Speech Therapy (Belfast) and Writers’ Block (Amsterdam). He is a remote member of the Lincoln poetry collective Outspoken, a member of the Poetry Society and attends the Royal Literary Fund Reading Round (Belfast). He is currently fascinated by the idea of Omphalos.
Midsummer found the blacksmith’s forge
and parson’s candle cold and waiting to be roused.
His haircut fresh,
he left us for the tipping place
one foot in childhood,
hands not yet worn,
tasked to gather hawthorn, hazel,
willow, ash, and pine,
rowan, birchwood, yew and oak
to make the nine
and begin amongst the men.
Hawthorn from the hedges,
ash and oak from anywhere
and yew sticks from the rocky churchyard
were easy found.
Far riverbank willow, lakeside birchwood,
hilltop rowan and hazel from the limestone glens
were tasks in themselves.
Lastly, to carry his nicky to the valley,
sticky his hands with pine sap
and return through the half-light without tarrying,
refreshed from his adventure.
Unbuckling his belt,
he set two stakes with a pitch-soaked crosspiece,
noose-wound and linen-packed,
caught the sparks in oakum with no flint in sight,
set the smoulder to kindle small sticks,
watched it take,
prosper to seasoned and kiln-dried logs,
added each of his green branches in succession to the growing fire,
turned to us gleam-lit and transformed,
shared a drink and the story of his long gather.
I remember November fifth
when you became the need of a new pair of shoes.
We were dragging our heels in the pub when you blacked out,
patient and pacing ourselves with worries about the old man.
No one understood your last words,
mismatched and full of holes.
I like to polish away my doubts
and believe they were laced with faith.
Thinking I was doing good,
I gave them what I could
and washed my hands.
They are Mandelbrot dots.
Endless grimy palms,
swollen fingers, ashen nails.
Cross-legged, they come for work,
until the season fails.