New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

3 Poems by John Foggin

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John Foggin lives in Ossett, West Yorkshire. His work has appeared in The North, The New Writer, Prole, and The interpreters house, among others, an in anthologies including The Forward Book of Poetry [2015, 2018].He publishes a poetry blog: the great fogginzo’s cobweb. His poems have won first prizes in The Plough Poetry [2013,2014], the Camden/Lumen [2014], and McClellan [2015] Competitions respectively. In 2016 he was a winner of the Poetry Business International Pamphlet Competition judged by Billy Collins. He has had published four pamphlets/chapbooks: Running out of Space [2014] Backtracks [2015], Larach (WardWood Publications) [2015] and Outlaws and fallen angels (Calder Valley Poetry) [2016], and two collections, Much Possessed (smith|doorstop) [2016], and Gap Year..co-authored with Andy Blackford (SPM Publications) [2017]





Picture this.


If there was a photograph, I’d show you.

I’m sitting on a suitcase. There are long queues

at the barriers. Everyone has a suitcase.

Everyone. The air is loud with whistles,

hiss, doors; blurry with steam, coal smoke.

The sky is a huge dark arch. Picture me.


I wear a raincoat too big for me. Sandals.

Everyone is grey. A man in a hat says: smile.

He points a big black camera. Come one,

he says. Smile. But I don’t. I get off

the suitcase, find my mother. If there was

a photograph, I’d show you. You’d see

a small thin boy on a suitcase. Grey queues.


You’d have to guess the noise, the smell,

the dark arches. You might tell yourself

a story. You know the one of a small boy

in a too-big cap, wideeyed, hands raised

in surrender, the grey soldiers, their guns.

The one of a man in a well-cut suit

begging for bread thrown from a tank.


You know the one of a fighter on a hill

under a white sky, falling backwards,

arms flung back, rifle spinning away.

Every picture tells a story.


You see a small thin boy, a suitcase.

You’d know exactly what was going on,

wouldn’t you.




I’ll take you. The metalled track

for the ones who cull the deer,

or the way from the watershed

by the line of pylons, the swatch of green bracken,

the tumble of mossed field walls

sinking back into the hill.


That first house, roofless, unglazed,

in its neat walled sheep park,

the lochan glinting in a shallow sun.

Rhum at anchor on the rim of the west.

A small boat beating into the swell.


Bird-bright ancient woods over the ford.

Oak and holly. Rowan. Fern and briar.

Underfoot a mulch, a bog of leaves,

but the way well-found to its edge,

and the thinnest of land. Outcrop quartz,

brown reeds, cottongrass.


And here, at the scrawl of bladderwrack,

a single croft as bare as a winter ash,

corrugated tin roof rusting, grey walls

algae-streaked black and poison-green.

A trodden pock-marked floor of earth.

Wet, clotted ashes in the hearth. A broken crate.


Think of a pitched slate roof, neat dormers.

Peat reek from a chimney at each gable end.

A daffodil sun in a blue blue sky.

Three birds like punctuation marks.A red door.

Curtains in the windows either side.

The crayoned house of every child who ever drew a house.


A good place to wait out a squall that blows in off the sea.


Ah yes. Well, Lachlan that was my uncle.

He was born in there. Yon house. Says Effie.

Oh, but it was years ago.





A train on the next platform pulls out

and you think you’ve moved. Why

do the clock and the kiosk stay still,

why don’t the pigeons shift.


This huge vault of iron, blackened glass.

The ones who built it flooded it with light.

How long did that last. No one considered

how it would stay transparent,

how it would stay clean,

or who would keep it clean.


Did they think: small children,

like St Kilda gannet hunters, gatherers

of samphire, hung in clusters

like dishrag bats.


Would they forget

how to walk, learn to fly, live

upside down. Perhaps they did,

then vanished without trace,

like toshers, screevers, mudlarks.

All the lost strange crafts and trades.











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