Writings and Witterings


Sunlit Still

In response to the sepia photograph prompt at The Mag which was a new find for me in 2012 – now taking a bit of a break – this ekphrastic poem:

Sunlit Still

Captured for
all time
in the silent

A sunlit room,
in time
in a snapshot of time.

Unlit candles
cast darkness on sills.
A frozen head
time stands still.

It is 10:30.
It remains 10:30.
It will never be other
than 10:30.

Polly Stretton © 2016


Shakespeare’s Song

Words shamelessly borrowed from Shakespeare…on the 400th anniversary of his death I was challenged by Léa to create a poem from his famous words in celebration of his life.

Shakespeare’s Song

Manilow writes the songs
to make the whole world sing,
but Shakespeare coined the phrases
that make the voices ring:
it’s a foregone conclusion
there’ll be a plague on both your houses
if there’s a sea change
in all corners of the world.
We’ll be as merry as the day is long
come what may,
even at the turning of the tide
for ever and a day.
Good men and true,
will give the Devil his due,
high time we were once more
into the breach, dear friends,
once more.
Out of the jaws of death
we’ll pluck the pound of flesh,
walk the primrose path
and send him packing.
It sets your teeth on edge
when something is rotten in the state of Denmark;
star crossed lovers
are such stuff as dreams are made on.
There’s method in my madness,
aye, thereby hangs a tale,
this is the short and the long of it,
the truth will out.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
we have seen better days,
when sorrows come, they come not single spies,
but in battalions.
The be all and end all,
the crack of doom,
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
mean that the smallest worm will turn,
being trodden on.
Oh, woe is me,
while you live, tell the truth
and shame the Devil.

Polly Stretton © 2016



First line from ‘The Munich Mannequins’ by Sylvia Plath – it always put me in mind of Michelangelo, I’ve never forgotten reading ‘The Agony and the Ectasy’ – need to read it again now…


‘Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children,’
sterile, frustrated, it comes to decay.
Michelangelo wept when he found perfection,
took up his hammer to do it away.
None stayed his hand as he lunged at his David
breaking his heart on that cool summer day,
birthing his talent
the last chip was chipped off
the warm marble block with its dust sweet bouquet.
confection of lies.
Conception of lies.
He did it away.

Polly Stretton © 2016


Blacker Than The Night

It started as an April Fool joke on Facebook when Tony Judge said ‘There has to be a poem in this somewhere (happened near Croome Court)’ and attached an article about a big cat on the prowl, terrifying local residents.

Funny what can inspire a poem, ‘eh? 😀

Big Cat

Blacker Than The Night

Big , shadowy, stealthy,
scary to the locals;
with lowered head it stalks,
eyes green in headlights.
A predator, prepared to attack.
It’s the size of a Rottweiler;
the biggest of big cats.
‘No firm evidence’ has come to light:
no photograph, no video,
no flowers, no chocolates.
‘This is the trouble,’
a police spokesperson said.
A leopard? A jaguar? A panther?
From the circus?
Safari park?
Croome Court?
The law said
they might have known,
had that been the case.

Polly Stretton © 2016



Move away from the waste paper bin.
Move away from the waste paper bin.
Little dogs mustn’t go in the waste paper bin.
Little dogs mustn’t go in the waste paper bin.
I know it’s fun, all that crinkly paper.
I know it’s fun, all that crinkly paper.
Move away from the waste paper bin.
Repetition becomes tedious.
I am patient.
I am patient.

Polly Stretton © 2016

Mabel Passport size photo



Upright, shoulders back,
sitting on a kitchen chair.
Steam rises
from a white fine china cup.
Light motes
filter in the air.
He stares
at a drop of hot brown tea
cooling as it dribbles
from where his lips
it trickles stuttering down the side,
makes its way to the saucer
where a silver, tea streaked spoon
The spoon carried one
and a half spoons
of sugar to the cup,
as his hand shook
grains of sugar fell
to the table
and remained there;
round, white, slightly shimmering
on the green polka dot cloth.

Polly Stretton © 2015

Suggestions for a title would be welcome 🙂


Brown And Blue

We live in canvas bells for five days’
sweat-clammy shelter,
hot in fields of hay,
as a great war rages.
Anne and I become snake
and snake charmer around a smoky campfire.
The menfolk ‘on the front’
– some of our dads –
My dad’s a Local Defence Volunteer. He has a gun.
We have a singsong, Pack Up Your Troubles for wide-eyed mothers,
nurses, head-scarved land girls,
and munitions factory workers, canary-faced women
who feast on fat pork spitting
splitting sausages that stay
on the tongue with charred onion breath, for hours.

We wonder what it’s like
on the bloody muddy Western front.
Will jam jars and cotton reels really help?
If You Were The Only Girl In The World
our mothers’ eyes shine.
Big blue-garbed Girl Guides
tease us because we’re brown
– few gongs yet –
Me, arms akimbo, in a khaki sleeping bag;
writhing, serpentine, up and down,
side to side,
while Anne tootles, fluting on her recorder,
face dark with gravy browning.
In the trenches guns shatter eardrums, pop eyeballs, make mush of bones.

The big girls give out rubbery gas masks
– hard to breathe –
they send messages using small flags;
wrinkle soapy fingers in hospitals; lather and launder dressings;
roll bandages; prep stretchers for bleeding bodies.

We collect warm hens’ eggs, harvest cabbages and keep our chins up,
knit socks and scarves for the Tommies,
and hope our mums don’t get a telegram.

Polly Stretton © 2014

This poem was published in Remember, the Paragram Poetry Anthology 2014, I mentioned this in conversation with my friend, Mike Alma, who has sent me the photo below to show what the Girl Guides looked like in the early 20th century. Many thanks Mike. Here is Mike’s photo of Doris and Peg, bet they loved camping.

Mike's mum as a Guide circa 1920

Mike’s mum as a Guide circa 1920