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New Poetry, Fiction, Essays

Highly Commended Poet – Ceinwen Haydon

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Gooseberry

You. Pale green orb, cream-licked,
sprout pubic down of youth,
moonballs flipped from Mars’ sky.
Will you, your bushy branches part
and –
seeing how I pant
hold back your spelky thorns?
Or will stiletto thrusts penetrate
my flesh, draw scarlet wine
from secret folds?

I had a bobble-popper necklace, as a girl.
It shared your hue and glittered
as I sucked each hard blob
whilst writing homework.
I tried not to bite, and yet my teeth
still left sharp-needled scars.
If I taste your juice fresh squeezed
I’ll fall to hell in tart-sweet sin.

 

Neural Pathways

I flinch
when you raise your hand
and my palms cover my face
as you wave

the cadence of a gravel voice
stirs my father’s shade

I see my brother’s old tears
drop rust-red from worn guttering
overflowing with winter rain

a sixties’ song throbs
electrifies my nerves
and rouses my arthritic knees
to dance teenage dreams
There’s Always Something There to Remind Me

harsh voices overheard in passing on the street
unleash ghosts of thumping hands and caustic words
my mother’s fury
you’re so bad    one day you’ll make me kill you    so you will

once    I wrote a note after she beat me
dear mummy you don’t love me anymore
I’m sorry but I hate you
she found it hidden under my pillow

a stranger’s eyes echo yours    my first love
and the curve of a neck
retreating in a crowd
brings you back across fifty years

I once spent hours in old churches
seeking god                         the great no show
yet now I’m old
Artemis and Seeshat wink from time to time
bright stars between tall dark trees at sunset

and their kindness
chucks my chin with tenderness
shoos my childhood spankings
and unwise loves into the long grass

 

My Daughter

It’s a strange thing,
I’d die for you
yet I can’t find the words
to tell you what flawed place
I came from.
And you don’t have the patience
to listen to my reasons
for being less than the mother
you wanted back then: less
than the mother I wanted to be,
wanted to be so badly
I thought I’d die of love.

 

Writing Wrongs

I remember a pigtailed five-year-old
who, balanced high and wild
on an urban-parkland hill,

bent low from her waist to
peer backwards
through chubby ‘A’ framed legs,
head upside-down.
My little girl who said,
The world looks funny from here,
not easy-peasy, but special.

I gift my poem to her in low light,
sip Chablis, her favourite.
My downcast eyes wine-caught
stare back at me,
a thin-stemmed moment
suspended as she reads.
Silence.

I write to unriddle
hard times long ago. Script holds form,
mouth and tongue move too fast
for meaning to endure.

She reads and reads again.
Silence.
I swallow.

Slowly her eyes rise
from the hand-pressed paper,
lavender, chosen for love.
I breathe again.

Mum, let’s leave it now.
You did the best you could, seeing how it was back then.
Today. Today, we’re okay.

We raise our glasses
to next steps
not easy but special.

 

Relief

Coming down from high Chew Green,
my legs stretched, my rucksack back-stuck,
I hunger for chips and fresh-baked chicken pie
with ice-cold Guinness,
as my senses sing of hills and sky.

Journey almost done, my feet
slip-slide on greasy flagstones
when suddenly, I hear the gurgling burn
stitched with fretful baas.
I see a wean crying, stuck
knee-deep in oily bog-land mire.

And her dam blait alto-tones,
raucous and resigned
to the muddy loss of her bairn.

My boots stall
sucked down by sludge,
and thistles prick my legs
as I move slowly
to clutch the lamb
by her lanolined, rough-wool coat.

I heave hard.

Her eyes are blank, terror-misted,
and her black, bony hooves
jab sharply on my shins
as she glucks free, wobbles,
sneezes and stumbles to her mam.
Tired and splattered, I mind a time, way back:
when my own child returned with a stranger.

Notes:
blait: Scots – to bleat
bairn and wean: Scots and Northern English – babies or the young
dam: farming term for livestock – mother

 

Artemis

‘Go suck cows’ udders,’
my mother, Leto, spat at me.
‘Wait,’ she screamed.
‘First, deliver sweet Apollo.
Set him free.’

I thrust my baby hands
deep inside, back the way I’d come.
Grasped the slick, round head
of my twin, beloved by me
in Leto’s womb.

As she gave him breast,
she turned me old.

I snatched a bow and arrow
and waved maids to my side:
sixty or more, so young.
They sang to soothe me,
and guard my sleep.

Now my torch flares.
My unfettered tunic
swirls the draughts
that cool my virgin cunt.

My words convey secrets.
The thrilling scents of prey
to hunt, tracks to follow,
but best of all I sniff of blood
of birthing women
who labour in the open air.

 

Donkey

Through tantrum tears
and sun’s glare
I glance up the hill.

Hooves clomp and hammer
as down the slope he comes,
skids on the wet grass
and shambles to a heavy halt
behind the five-bar gate.

His screeching bray
thwarts my daft intentions.
His tail thumps my thigh
and his nose nuzzles my chest.
Then, hoof raised high,
he gently kicks
all my hectic nonsense
into the long dew-laden grass.

 

Lindisfarne

Yellow celandines
brush my legs with pollen dust
and for several strides
I share the holy work of bees

 

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