For National Poetry Day 6 October 2022, the theme this year is the environment, an updated version of my poem Trading on the Silk Road
You are a rainbow, a gilded-winged messenger,
a fresh-faced goddess
refilling rain clouds with seawater.
Speed of the wind,
by your side.
into the ocean, dark underworld,
unhindered by the caduceus,
unchecked before sea serpents.
bring to Zeus the great oath of gods,
Iris, take him your ewer
sweet syrup of nectar.
Swift-footed, sure, storm-like rage
of the messenger bent on your twin.
Your joy flowing from Arke’s wings on Achilles’ heels.
Harbinger of light in a gossamer gown:
—the realm of the rainbow is yours—
always beyond reach.
Growing Places, (Black Pear Press, 2021)
On my walk today…
empty crushed cartons line the lane,
the wind brings them here to irritate,
drive residents insane.
Cold chip wrappings,
crumpled plastic bottles, soiled crisp bags,
coloured foil, grubby and flapping.
But further on, up the bridle path,
through the crooked gate away from the road,
here are newts, grass snakes, a toad.
Past the marsh bog a vixen appears,
over the mead, to the hedgerow she jogs.
And in the hedge, once the danger has gone,
a rabbit comes nibbling; lollops along.
Buzzards overhead, a pair, no three,
they look at the pheasant,
the rabbit, and me.
The pheasant croaks, cries, as if to warn
the rabbit, who runs through wet grass.
A buzzard dives.
© Polly Stretton 2022
Winter comes stealthing…it’s 5am dark,
silent and chill; August hangs her red head.
A wet summer trails to an autumn, stark,
the seasons have become confused, misled.
In lightening sky, dark sunfree clouds leer,
the pensive garden, still, holds its slow breath
in blowsy brash overblown garb this year.
Scents of autumn waft a whispered caress,
as songbirds want to wake us earlier
the moon sets in the black night to stir us.
Morning dew drenches noble courtiers,
who with the sovereign sun will shake us.
Cool autumn day you stretch, yawn, sleepy grey,
and we must get up and join in the fray.
© Polly Stretton 2022
Girl’s Got Rhythm, (Black Pear Press, 2012)
A gothic tale from ‘The Alchemy of 42’
A Transylvanian melody chimes through the night.
The air is still and warm, there is no trace of light.
He haunts the forest glades and the castle where she lies,
she strains to hear his footsteps, her hopes can’t be disguised,
she knows he’s coming for her, yet no fear shows in her eyes.
She wants to keep this castle, comprehends he can’t resist,
knew it from All Hallows’ when he stole a hard-pressed kiss,
knew it by her father’s pale and trembling lips,
knew it from her mother’s stark forbidding hiss.
She enjoys his sense of style, his dark and brooding brow,
his high and sculpted cheekbones, his skin white-cold, ice-sallow;
in his cape of burnished black, he is the maniac
the villagers with their garlic fear and dread.
She smiles at the thought of the crosses they have wrought
to stop him ascending to her bed.
She discerns her soul will wince when she hears the chimes, since,
when discord climbs the stairs, he’ll try to claim her for his own.
The scent of juniper, aromatic, spiced, sincere,
is the harbinger she’s counted on; dreamt about for years.
A rap upon her door, her pulse races, her mind roars,
she plans to keep this castle and will do evermore.
He leans in close towards her, his cape as soft as zephyrs,
it sweeps her pure white nightgown as he slowly travels down;
his breath, a mist of insight, strokes her furrowed frown.
His teeth glint in the moonlight, from her, he’ll get no swift flight,
she arches, plunges in the knife…
He’ll not take the castle from her, not deny her of her home,
but of one thing she is certain, it won’t be far he’ll roam.
The haunting now commences and continues till the dawn,
she licks her lips: a killing, and legends to be spawned.
Shared with dVerse Poets (2015)
The Alchemy of 42, Black Pear Press (2020)
This is the one song that everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible’.
Margaret Attwood (1998)
Threads of melodies tack through sultry air,
weave over waves, surge past the shore,
travel to a boat and see the split shot sinkers
he presses onto lines to give them weight.
His head tilts like a vertical bobbin,
shuttles back and forth to pick up the thread,
wonders where the sound originates,
ponders—perhaps it’s only in his head.
The sound’s in the shape of his lover
the woman he dreams of through the day
and then he sees his line is entangled,
he won’t make it back to her early this way.
He picks at the line and starts to unravel
yet siren threads drift closer, he hears
them become the soft tone
of his love’s sweet blandishments,
‘Promise you’ll be early
tonight, my dear?’
He shakes his head, the song enthralls.
Home calls, his wish: to kiss her soon.
At a week-long workshop during lockdown, the theme was the sea. At that time, I was reading poetry by Margaret Attwood and enjoyed her ‘Siren Song’, I love Greek myths and am fascinated by fishermen – I remember as a child seeing one who was repairing nets on the harbour – such a solitary life, it seems to me. I acknowledge Margaret Attwood and quote the first stanza of ‘Siren Song’ in ‘Entanglement’.
Point your heart at Sirius,
a flower opens up,
bright in the night skies
light in your eyes.
Essence of joy
tunes to an out-of-time state,
energy, rhythms of guitars,
the stars, auras of significance,
the Dog Star barks.
Point your heart at Sirius
brightest star in the night
lightest touch to your eye.
Dog days of sultry summer,
heavy and hot, hot, sultry, heavy, hot.
Thunderstorms bring fever,
blight the bark of trees,
parch us to our knees.
Drowse through summer
languid with heat,
scorched or sparkling.
Point your heart at Sirius,
God of life and more
Sirius is yours.
Polly Stretton © 2020
The Lion’s Gate—the annual period of the heliacal rise of Sirius, brightest star in our sky and a great ‘Spiritual Sun’ of our Sun—is at its peak on the 8th day of the 8th month of the solar year. The first day of Sirius’s annual reappearance over the horizon at dawn, July 26th, was taken as the beginning point of the Ancient Egyptian calendar cycle, and was also the first day of the Mayan lunar calendar each year, in an intuitive unison of solar and lunar energetic patterns. The energy of the double infinity of the 8+8 within the circle of Creation is expressed in sacred geometry as the Rose Cross or Tetracross.
 Egyptian god of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife and the underworld, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation
 In ancient Egypt, the name Sirius signified its nature as scorching or sparkling. The star was associated with the Egyptian gods Osiris, Sopdet and other gods. Ancient Egyptians noted that Sirius rose just before the sun each year immediately prior to the annual flooding of the Nile River.
Flittermice weave over reeking moonshine
cross-eyed and woozy on rising fumes
chase paper-like moths through the dense night-time
jaws snap away to roosts the moths to consume
a charge for the moth from a hot light bulb
a scorch a burned bum a lucky escape
but echolocation doesn’t see the bat dulled
dinner tonight is in his mouth draped
the reek of the moonshine the rise of vapour
has chemically altered the mammal’s ability
he weaves and he wavers his wings act as tracers
but the dread-filled moth makes a dart of agility
another lucky escape
From the Malvern Hills section of Growing Places
Silence and solitude unbroken drops
a sense of stillness, soundlessness flutters,
no soul to disturb the cool, calm hilltop,
Midsummer Hill smothers sighs, hushed, shuttered.
And then from the west come the saucy swifts,
swooping and singing, playing today, while
they wait to migrate, chase, drift, flit and lift,
wings skitter, dip and dance to the sundial.
What joy in aloneness, how glad the sight,
a ballet of darting, diving divas
so rare, a flock of sure swifts in full flight,
they plunge, lunge and soar in joie de vivre.
There’s none to disturb the cool, calm hilltop,
Midsummer Hill sighs in silence, shuttered.
For my loved and much-missed dad on Father’s Day.
A shadow of his former self,
my dad, in a hospital bed,
he’d broken his hip and a bit of his mind,
I’ll tell you what he said.
His close-mouthed lips formed these words:
‘Me teeth, me ruddy teeth!’
‘What about them Dad?’ I sighed,
‘Me teeth, me ruddy teeth.’
His face looked loppy-sided,
he didn’t try to grin,
I peered, to find the problem,
for sure, his teeth were in.
‘They’ve give me someone else’s,’
he lisped, with an air of dismissal,
‘Let me see,’ it made me smile
that when he spoke, he whistled.
His teeth were in, but upside-down,
he’d played these games before,
I liked this one a lot better
than searching for teeth on the floor!
Polly Stretton © 2018
I think of feet that tramp and tread waved hills,
of stories, songs and poems stone tracks inspire,
of creatures great and small, the shouts and trills,
of men, myths of monsters, faeries, giants.
A million years and more, they’ve stood to brood,
a vale eruption, ridgebacked, raw and proud,
they beckon, call upon us to intrude,
and haunting bluebell oceans trumpet loud.
Yet when I climb those taxing slopes once more,
to see the valleys spread out far below,
it is like searching for an ancient shore,
that seeing through a spyglass cannot show,
the light and shade illuminated when
my eyes are dim and I shan’t come again.
Polly Stretton © 2019
The Poetry of Worcestershire (Offa’s Press 2019)
Mary gave it to me in ’73,
Lauder’s parfum solidifié,
a cameo lid, carved and proud,
a Grecian face, raised, endowed
with curls and plaits
in ivory on terracotta.
Scent set in finely-etched gold.
Mary gave it to me.
Fast forward to 2013, a bad year,
when that thing happened
that all of us fear.
Mary, my friend,
she lost, failed, went.
I don’t forget her,
still use the same scent.
Polly Stretton © 2014
He learned to read from a black-letter Bible,
was thought a backward boy, no scholar.
Lonely, close and comely,
poor boy was deemed a dullard.
He forged his first letters
from illuminated capitals;
cutting consonants, reviewing verbs,
giving names to nouns.
Memory on memory make his story,
they talk of it still sighing their sorrows.
Merciless London, no crumb offered,
the baker rebuffed him for begging a loaf.
Chatterton (Black Pear Press, 2014)
Available as an eBook
A Facebook challenge for March 2022 was to write a poem
about Spring, or the seasons, in a post climate change natural
environment–it brought out ‘the dark’ in me…a post-apocalyptic poem, with a hint of hope.
Gaia, science says you repeat
and revel in climate change.
We wonder why
acidic dust clouds sigh
over the river
black weeds choke
in dry mud
the world is a desert
with ashes of bones.
Scabby man tinkers with technologies,
focusses fading eyes.
Lungs tingle, mouths dry,
splits a head pain,
lips crack and bleed;
eyes tear, ears hear the ventowaves
that tell peace is declared
they do not believe
the disembodied voice:
‘This is the World Service, 11 August 2389.
‘Reports are coming in…shsssshsssh…’
Flakes fall from faces,
wounds drip pink viscous fluid,
seared air clogs failing vision,
dust cloys, a rash of pain is inhaled,
cinders bite cold, nip and pinch exposed skin.
Movements are sensed rather than seen,
a stumbling gait, shuffle, scrape, shuffle, scrape.
The stench of burned flesh, pig roast,
weak legs, search for food, water.
‘Where are the bodies?’
Debris and dust billow over the arid riverbed,
hair and scales float like petals from a cherry tree.
There, on the baked bank,
a single blue iris waves its flag.
Polly Stretton © 2022
The divine hag drops rocks for stepping-stones.
From Samhain to Beltane she’s the goddess of winter,
at Samhain she’s hideous, blue face, sharp teeth, rank haired bag of bones;
by winter’s end, she’s transformed to a block without splinter;
over time she grows ever younger
until by Beltane she’s a beautiful maiden.
First, her veil drapes, her magic staff turns green to grey,
she carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys,
makes a white bridge from Ireland to Scotland,
gathers firewood to last through the season.
Foul weather means she’s asleep.
Locals shelter her in the glens; the glens become fertile and prosperous.
When she leaves, she gives stones with a promise:
‘As long as the stones are put out over the glen at Beltane,
‘back into the shelter and secured for Samhain,
‘then the glen will continue, verdant, potent, plentiful.’
To honour her, wear blue,
cover your altar with a cloth yellow as the sun.
Place a blue candle and a bowl of snow in the centre.
The candle burns, wax shrinks, snows melt,
give way to warmth and light.
Pour water from the snow outside to rejoin the Goddess
and usher in the dark half of the year.
Polly Stretton © 2022
The Alchemy of 42 (Black Pear Press, 2020)
In Gaelic mythology, the Cailleach is a divine hag, an ancestor associated with the creation of the landscape and with the weather, especially storms and winter. She’s also known as Beira, Queen of Winter.
The turning point
Great Trilithon’s smooth flat face
looks to winter sun
slanted light becomes stronger
the days become longer
we celebrate rebirth
The sun stands
its shadow barely changes
sun dials seem static
low in darkening skies
the darkest time
Eat drink carouse
quaff new-fermented wine
for the sun’s winter sleep
Cleanse the house of evil spirits
look at Loki’s mistletoe
an arrow in the heart
tears become berries
symbols of love
leads to beginnings
Polly Stretton © 2021
Chilled window glass
glitter in the aftermath
a smatter of snowy crush
ice sparkle blossom blush
in the dawn a silver flush
of sequin stars on blades in yards
cobwebbed bushes on boulevards
listen to the birds.
Polly Stretton © 2021