On the Fence
The view’s not bad. Between the patchwork
of prejudice and the roll of logic, on a clear day
you can see right across to the Cairngorms, rising
like indignation in the distance.
No need for reason this high up. The grass
is green whichever way you look.
Sometimes I amuse myself with a test
of balance: all the way to the sycamore without falling off.
It’s a question of faith: not in staying upright
but faith in my feet –
the fact of them, not how far they might take me
or how many blisters I’ll have to lance
when I pad home tonight. It’s faith
in timber, nails, the sweat of a good man,
in the mortise and tenon of each vertical post.
Forgive me, I haven’t even introduced you –
these are my neighbours: Swaledales,
Longwools, Cheviots. Over there
with his black-and-white sheepdog is Farmer Fisk,
waving his staff like a last word.
(Highly commended in the Larkin and East Riding Poetry Competition 2012; appeared in The Art of Egg, Two Ravens Press 2015)
Sharon Black is originally from Glasgow but now lives in the Cévennes mountains of southern France where she runs a yoga and writing retreat. She has been published widely and won the Prole Laureate Competition 2016 as well as Ilkley Literature Festival Poetry Competition 2013. Her first collection, To Know Bedrock, was published by Pindrop Press in 2011. Her second, The Art of Egg, appeared with Two Ravens Press in 2015. She recently took over as publisher at Pindrop Press.
Inside where the darkness stops,
her bones are soft, pliable, her head
half her weight. She curls in the curve
of the crescent moon. Week 28,
she feels pain. Inhales, exhales;
downy hair covers her skin, like his.
Her room’s changed shape, dimension.
No longer measured crown to rump,
she stretches her length, cranks up
Amy Winehouse, reads To the lighthouse
in her bed at night. She meets pain.
Inhales, exhales; dyes her hair, like his.
Opens The Waves.
Outside the morning blisters. I feel
her shift. Away. Resist.
She submerges, airless. Week 936,
head full of dreams half her weight
she buckles under, greets pain.
Inhales, exhales. Her hair skims
the water’s skin.
(Commended in The Frogmore Poetry Prize 2012)
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How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon Press) was shortlisted for The Forward Prize Best First Collection. Pindrop Press published Snow Child in 2011.
House of Swan
and I flare inside a cage of ice,
dance the dance you taught me as a cygnet
when you made me walk across your cigarette’s flicked ash.
Too narrow for the spread of wings
but wide enough to gaze for hours at my reflection
as bones fused into shapes too tight
for normal flight.
I am older now.
The ice has melted, I glide on water;
have pledged myself to a different mirror image
and built a nest of softest down.
Yet still you strike
your words against me,
still the flame burns bright
while underneath these feathers
my skin sings for you,
black as char.
(from To Know Bedrock)
Sharon Black is from Glasgow but now lives in the Cevennes mountains of southern France. Her first collection of poetry To Know Bedrock was published in 2011 by Pindrop Press.
Through Carved Wooden Binoculars
1. I want to carve you some wooden binoculars.
2. I want to sew you a suit from slivers of bark.
3. I want to run up and down your body like an ant.
4. I want to take each one of your feet and bury it in earth.
5. I want you to stand still until you feel your soles bursting as you take root.
6. I want to sleep under the canopy of your whispers.
7. I want to wake up every morning and think, why not.
8. I want to paint each of my fingernails a different colour just to make myself smile when I type out these words.
9. I want to watch my fingers making rainbows over the keyboard.
10. I want the words to keep their coloured shadows once they’re typed.
11. I want you to see how SEE ends on such a yellow burst.
12. I want orgasms wrapped in blue silk.
13. I want to untie them with gold ribbon, so so slowly.
14. I want to open several blue silk parcels every night.
15. I want to think, oh I can’t, but then I will.
16. I want to make a celebration from every day, especially this one, this day.
17. I want a day where no news media uses the words, the problem with girls.
18. I want to run my fingers through the hair of this man I see on the train.
19. I want nothing else from him, especially not conversation.
20. I want there to be a slight tangle, for my fingers to get caught, to have to pull and then set it free.
21. I want to have brushed my daughter’s hair every time she asked.
22. I want to have left my chores, my cooking, my work and picked up the brush.
23. I want to have used the silver-backed hair brush my mother inherited from her mother.
24. I want to keep my hair long, even when I’m an old lady.
25. I want my daughter to brush my hair in my hospital bed.
26. I want her to use my mother’s silver brush.
27. I want to eat a dictionary today.
28. I want to take my time, to taste the particular sharpness of P for Pain and the slipperiness of C for Circumvent.
29. I want to be able to put my hand on my leg so I can feel where Confess, Honour and Truth have got to.
30. I want Pleasure in my belly.
31. I want no words to hide in my heart.
32. I want to be wearing a sleeveless red dress on hot summer evening, I want to be luxuriating in the sensation of sun on my skin, and I want the friend I’m with to let out a gasp. I want to say, what’s the matter?
33. I want her to point to my arm, in the flesh of my upper arm, where letters are appearing.
34. I want them to be in Bookman Old Style.
35. I want my mother.
36. I want to look up into the sky for so long I start to see the stars behind the stars I normally see.
37. I want some people, the people I care about, to look at me that carefully, to see the heart behind my heart.
38. I want to smell wood burning and think this is what the cavemen would have smelt. Exactly this.
39. I want a perfect pear, sliced into four and eaten on a white plate.
40. I want to spread rose petal jam on dark rye bread.
41. I want to really believe that to be greedy is to be sexy.
42. I want people to walk into my kitchen and stand still for a moment before saying, hmmm, cinnamon and lemon and mint.
43. I want to feel my blood as it runs round my body.
44. I want to stick a label on each part of my body denoting previous owners: my mother’s index fingernail, my father’s nose, my grandfather’s feet.
45. I want my body to have doors that creak open at the stomach like an old fashioned wooden wardrobe.
46. I want to look inside and see the labels, ‘Great Grandfather’s sense of humour’, ‘Great Grandmother’s strong lungs.’
47. I want people to say, no one in her family has ever done a thing like that.
48. I want those coming after me to think, well, I can now.
49. I want all the separate parts to come together like a portrait painted with one brush stroke.
50. I want to know what I want.
(from You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book)
Sarah Salway is a novelist, journalist and poet. Her first poetry collection was You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book (Pindrop Press), and as Canterbury Laureate, she has been working on a literary journey of Kent through its gardens.