Poetry by Michele (Miki) Byrne

ST. THEOC CHOOSES THE SITE OF HIS CHAPEL

I will not build where caterwauling seagulls dig 

their beaks into soft soil. Screech high and wailing

like colicky babies throughout the day. 

Nor where bright marsh-marigolds spring shining. 

Bright as gold coins flung randomly 

as only a king could hurl. 

I dare not encroach upon water-meadows 

flood-fed and broad.  Lake-fields bring 

green birth but halt good travels of citizens 

nearby; submerge their hard-worked crops.

I shall choose this hill of gentle height 

and middling girth. Neatly plateaued, 

with room to plant both chapel 

wing and tree, when times allow. 

Where our congregation prays will be 

duly elevated, lifted as an offering.

A place for hope to be as surely raised. 

As our prayer rises, we too shall be 

lifted closer to our God.

RAILWAY ARCHES IN BIRMINGHAM

Arches loop across Digbeth then on, 

out of town.

Each one old, shadowed, eerie.

A scene in black-and-white noir.

I imagine a man in a hat, 

nonchalantly leaning, peering through 

a cigarette’s smoky plume.

The brick-built curves entice and terrify. 

Hold dark and damp in blue masonry

lofty black heights. 

Pigeon calls rustle like ghosts 

and in city-sun, light polishes one wall. 

The opposite holds shadowed doors

to factories, workshops, 

grubby little dens. 

Who knows who might be in there?

When a train clatters over,

the arches judder.

Tremble like cold flesh, rumble 

and rattle like thunder. 

At night, they are impenetrable.

Other-worldly, as if entering means 

you will never come out.

They span roads, factories, 

the oil-slicked canal.

Seem to march on to forever. 

SWIFT RIVER

Held between tall dry banks, the river 

rises swiftly in winter.

Stealthily covers small shale beaches.

Carved between banks that curve 

like whale ribs up to meadows above.

It takes loose-rooted willows, debris. 

Badly tethered boats, sheep. 

Scoops up everything loose left behind.

The surface never stills.

Carries movements jerky as anger.

Fierce as flung fists.

Holds loops and whirls of spinning surges. 

Tiny whirlpools, rolling, grasping eddies. 

Overspill at the bank’s lip looks gentle, 

quiet. 

Yet the speed of its flow can grasp 

at ankles.

Drag you down. 

Carry you light as a twig as you gulp for air.

Spin you over and over as insignificant as

a storm-fallen branch. 

Leave your body somewhere you’ve never 

even been.

About the contributor

Michele (Miki) Byrne has published two poetry collections and was a finalist in the Gloucester Poet Laureate competition. She has performed her work on Carlton TV and the BBC. Her poetry featured in Bloodaxe anthologies, Ink Sweat & Tears, Nine Arches Press anthologies. Miki is disabled and now lives near Tewkesbury.

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