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Writings and Witterings


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Pale Horse

Pale Horse was one of two poems that were part of the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis’s project back in 2018 when she asked poets in Worcester UK and Worcester USA to collaborate in a Call and Response project. To see the poems that were published, click on the image below:

Contour Call & Response 2018

I was lucky to have been paired with Beth Sweeney from the States. We got on well and came up with four poems that we were both proud of 😄

NB: The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque is a bronze plaque known as the dead man’s penny. They were issued to the next of kin of those who died serving in WWI, nearly a million individuals. Only 600 if those plaques were issued to women who died.

Pale Horse

Heels down. Head up. Look
where you’re going.
Go to a place
where you can hear your heart;
listen to the beat,
forget the drub of a thousand pale hooves
and the horsemen of the apocalypse.
We rise and fall together.

Grandma had a penny to remember you,
a bronze memory she Brassoed weekly,
cast in physical prowess, spiritual power,
in devotion to the triumph of good,
Britannia faces left, holds a laurel wreath,
there’s a box beneath, holding your name in raised relief,
and you, a man of miracles.
We rise and fall together.

A circular coin made whole, inscribed:
‘He died for freedom and honour’.
You are a man, who has gone,
yet nonetheless lives.
Your Penelope still waits.
Put the littered marshy slew behind you,
put it behind you.
We will start again.

Go to a place
where you can hear your heart;
listen to the beat.
No pale horse snickers,
no harbinger rides quicker,
no more horseshoes, trench fever, heat.
We sleep.
We rise and fall together.

Polly Stretton © 2018

Published in Contour WPL Magazine Issue 3 https://issuu.com/ninalewis3/docs/special_edition_contour_atotc_issue by
the 2017-2018 Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis for her call and response project: A Tale of Two Cities

and in Growing Places (Black Pear Press, 2021)

Here is an audio recording of the poem.


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Shadow Of Fear

Haunting your childhood dreams,
shadow of fear,
climbs stairs to a silent scream;
sharp talons appear
on arms extreme,
bat-like, austere.
Himself to redeem,
he edges nearer…he’s near.

Haunting your children’s dreams,
shadow of fear,
no mirror image seen,
what’s that they hear?
Horror hands intervene,
unearthly sneer;
teeth glint in foulest scene,
his silhouette leers.

Haunting your every dream
shadow of fear,
Nosferatu of nightmare theme,
stalks, then he’s here!
Touch on your shoulder seam,
fangs drip, smeared;
throat constricts slowly,
is punctured, revered.

Polly Stretton © 2012


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The Robin Song

Madeleine Floyd Robin Mug

I love the little robin
it’s such a special bird,
I have a smashing tale to tell,
which you may not have heard,
it starts off in the kitchen, one gloomy winter day,
the mug that has the robin on
got, somehow, in the way.

Yes, I had a little robin mug,
a pretty, favourite thing.
He didn’t mean to break it,
but,
he had a little fling.

It was an upset,
to be sure,
so to the shop we went,
there were none in stock we heard,
and we ordered a replacement.

We collected the replacement
and made a pot of tea,
the robin mug was waiting
to be filled
–a drink for me.
“Oh look,” says my daughter, “You got the mug today,”
I wonder if, Dear Reader, [or listener]
you can guess what next I’ll say?

We tried to avoid
breaking Madeleine Floyd,
our best catching skills let us down.
A little bird mug in
the hand (for a while),
can lead to it being…
shattered all across the kitchen in the tiniest bits and pieces imaginable!

An accident!
An accident!
An accident!
Oh, me.
I’m off to the shop in a moment
to order mug number three!

Polly Stretton © 2012

Audio file

“Tik – ik – ik – ik … Tik – ik …” … Robin