Marion Oxley – Four Poems

after Six Young Men and Last Letter by Ted Hughes

We called ourselves poets, set forth.

Four of us on a haiku walk.

abandon diving

empty rock and falling fast

water streams onwards

early summer sun

tall shadows down bridle path

clatter on cobbles

Lumb Lane hums with anti-capitalist talk,

the sway of a wide brimmed hat,

the too taut stretch of a red ‘t’-shirt,

earnest paunch of philosophical thought.

mossy elbows rest

wild garlic licks muddied boots

poets eat their words

six young men longing

fall sheltered in river deep

shifting pool of light

We watch a dipper flit in dappled flight,

a black and white blink, snaps memory.

garlic crushed gossip

shocks nature into silence

whispers caught in leaves

Bracken brushes knees not yet fully grown.

We stumble on, shamble along borders.

War-blinded, last letters home, litter our path.

In the kingdom of the confessional,

a crow sits waiting.

the last mill pond knows

a flash of mane catches sun

seven streams remain


Skin hungry       we are returning

   to the islands of the dead.

Spreading our wings    

   the size of doorways

   to let you through.

You kept visiting us

   after we left.

Stroking our bones   

   caressing our skulls

   calling us back.

Laid out on slabs

   of stone, we ripped

   your heart out.

Now    again 

   we lift your spirits.

Nestle our young     

   against hard edges 

   rock-cut tombs.

Watch as you disappear

   into the earth.


Is that your breath

the gentle putt putt

of air blown across

a soft blanket, the pink

purse of lips,

the waffle and weave

of words not yet formed,

beige fur stirring

as you search the breeze

in your sleep, chubby fingers

feeling the warmth of your own body

beneath a pelt that rocks from side to side

slides in time from thumb in mouth

to curls, wound in waves

of white cotton handkerchief

warm ironed, a scorch of steam billowing

prepares to sail this raft of cot,

of slatted bed

adrift for a while

before the night is over.

And in the damp breath of morning

your body has travelled

across degrees of latitude,

lain longitudinally on shores

where the sand of muffled calls, breaks

soft treads on cold stairs

a squall away from the call

of a Lord’s prayer.

Marion Oxley - Four Poems

Marion Oxley is originally from Manchester but has been living amongst the flood plains of the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire for some time now. She was recently shortlisted for the Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s ‘Wild’ competition and the Erbacce Poetry Prize. She is widely published in poetry magazines and anthologies.

About the contributor

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