1 Poem by John Bartlett

NO PEACE WITHOUT BITTERNESS

 

At the Fotheringhay Falcon Inn

we order ploughman’s lunch,

bread, cheese, pickles

hard-boiled eggs and ale,

unchanged over all these years

At the castle site where

Mary Queen of Scots, in black,

her stockings edged in silver

with green silk gaiters and

petticoats of velvet crimson,

clumsily was beheaded

and later James, her son, in rage

tore down these walls, no stone

remained, this motte alone,

this mound of earth and junk,

its view towards the church

‘floating on the hill

above the River Nene, a

galleon of Perpendicular on

a sea of corn’

On the long path to

Mary and the Saints, poplars

wait for us like sentinels, where

a soprano voice serenades the Autumn air

and a boy of five or six appears,

crying out ‘that’s my mummy’ and

so we stay of course to hear this Grace

 sing, hand resting on her boy’s small head,

this motet, Nulla in Mundo,

– in this world, no honest peace

is free from bitterness, this voice

that lifts and carries us

Later in the village hall

over tea and homemade

double sponge, I do recall

my father and his wallet, with

the photo of his widowed mum,

kept until the end

      – sons and their mothers

About the contributor

John Bartlett
John Bartlett publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and is the winner of the 2020 Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize. He has published two poetry chapbooks and his full collection Awake at 3am was just published by Ginninderra Press (2020). He lives in southern Australia.

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