Poet and novelist J.S. Watts


Slow. So very, very, slow.

There, I’ve said it

and not just as passive audience

but as player, French Horn, back row.

The notes drag out like chewing gum

shoe-stuck and freshly chewed.

I lean into them but

they lean on back

until I am balanced on the edge

with nowhere to fall.

Passing rain cloud solemn and weighted,

music for memory and remembrance.

Do you hear the annual pomp and circumstance

of the young man’s Cenotaph or

an old man dragging himself

forwards towards death?

The hunter hunted.

The outcome as inevitable

as the swell of the sea,

rising and falling, retreating

and flowing back

again. Sea

without end. Inescapable

and unhurried.

So monumentally unhurried.

(in response to a painting by Christopher Wood)

It was spring, allegedly.

Anemones and daffodils

thrust into a glass jar

of lightly browned water,

but the red and yellow

painting their petals

flared with autumn

just gone, or yet to come.

The flowers, pulled

crudely from their growing time

and caught between seasons,

already drooping

towards the future.


Cloud-sky may be anything,

can be anything you can think of

fact and fantasy.

Mind paints in imagination as

pale lavender mountains drift

in Japanese washes, high

above the inked-in conifer line.

Grey-blue dragons chase themselves

across brand new heaven-raised Alps,

exhaling mist.

Light pours down revelations

through lacunae, the Cloudverse opens

and closes again

on a whim,

on a wish,

in answer to a breath-hung prayer

because sometimes life beats

to the rhythm of your heart

and sometimes it doesn’t

because the wind has changed



You take for granted

your toe bone’s connected to the

foot bone. Never doubt that, in turn,

your foot’s wedded, ball and chain,

to the ankle bone and upwards 

through the leg bone’s marrow

as these dry bones strut around,

a God-given pair.

How to feel then, when they are not?

When the sturdy architecture of the foot,

with its pyramid bone pile

and load-bearing arch,

turns into a frail fan,

the foot’s own delicate skeleton

shredded, shattered,

cut off from the parent leg’s

still yearning flesh.

When the fern fronds of

Phalange and Metatarsal

are a memory within leaf mould,

only the Calcaneus peaking out

naked, because rotting flesh

cannot regrow.

How do you relinquish

such bone and sinew knowledge

of those twenty-six osseous pieces,

their thirty-three supple joints,

without obsessively enumerating their absence?

And what of the smooth ribboned tendons and ligaments,

satin sheened muscles and soft tissue flexing 

for dancer to pirouette and trace

the vigorously pounding pulse

of life’s connecting patterns,

the runner to sprint beside

the world’s flowing rush,

the walker to ambulate

from day to day?

The self as functioning biped


dem bones have divorced

the useless foot for good,

outcast to the shadowland of the Sciapod,

leaving the loss of false echoes

and those with traditional dual foundations

to count both their blessings

and to two compulsively

for reassurance’s fragile sake.

About the contributor

J.S. Watts is a UK poet and novelist. She has published seven books: four of poetry, Cats and Other Myths, Songs of Steelyard Sue, Years Ago You Coloured Me and The Submerged Sea, and three novels, A Darker Moon, Witchlight and Old Light. See www.jswatts.co.uk for more information

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