Three poems by Jean Atkin

Not there, nearly

This cream blackthorn warm of morning is the hour
to be patching the cattle trailer with squint squares
of corrugated tin and new rivets.

The air is lamb-bleat soft. Away up the lane go
steady hoofbeats, clip of iron to stone, the horse-pace
laid in layers over the land.

A tawny owl flies in daylight, has the wrong century.
Wings it straight and low and silent to the coppice,
and doesn’t come out.

From a hedge three redstarts tilt at us, tails bright
with rust, backlit by sun, their voices
shrill then not.

They’re only briefly there, same as the moat that’s mostly
silted up. But here behind the wire that keeps apart
the barren arable and the green

gunpowder wood, the moat shivers half the way around
its mound. Within, bluebells glimmer like a rumour.
The trees hide everything.

Beechmast Year, Knocknutshell Wood

We stood on the last of the Roman fort,
and northwards the small fields rose like flags.

From half a mile we couldn’t miss
the yellow bucket by the pheasant pen.

And nothing else blew in the wind, just
the bright wood of Knocknutshell

bent back from the sea,
taken root on the hill.

Then we lay on its tumble
of beechmast petals

hammocked under the speech of trees,
the telling of their loosened leaves.

Just that yellow bucket, and us,
was all there was in roadless miles.

Not enough. Or far too much. We make
a reckoning in recollected smiles.

Wenlock Priory

I find on this houndstooth lip
their prayers
worn thin by rain.

Amens have sheared
the prior’s sandstone
to this looser wool.

The centuries have blurred
some mason’s chiselled line
back into plough

sown now with lichens,
and titupping like his sheep
on low, curved hills.

Jean Atkin has published Not Lost Since Last Time, Oversteps Books, also five pamphlets and a novel. Her recent work appears in Magma, Agenda, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg, The North, Earthlines and The Moth. She has held residencies in both England and Scotland, and works as a poet in education, wellbeing and community projects. Twitter @wordsparks