Polly

Writings and Witterings


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Bones Under A Bridge

Tiny pile of bones
under a bridge
you were found out;
talked to the hawk,
or a murder of crows.

Maybe your first love,
the one that found you
in flagrante
set you up,
or the second, the witness,
who heard your infidelity.

Selfish and faithless, you will be alone.
The bridge won’t help.
We celebrate
bones ‘neath the bridge.
You were fond of saying,

‘No one cares.’

Polly Stretton © 2017

 

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Good News For A Squirrel!

Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis has blogged about the event at Hanbury Hall at which I was asked to read my poem ‘Curves’. ‘Curves’ was selected by Peter Hawkins of Droitwich Arts Network (DAN) to be read at the close of the art exhibition. If you’d like to see the painting that inspired it, click here.

There will be readings from the Hanbury Hall poets at Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich WR9 8DS on Tuesday 14th November 7.30 to 8.15pm – come along if you can 🙂

Curves

She owns it:
the branch.
She’s ready for summer
in a lighter coat.
Her curves tell
of coppery kittens
to be born later today,
two, three, or four will arrive
to inhabit the drey.

The painter’s sable brush,
pure,
soft as a blush
to define the narrow
smart face in a tuft-eared embrace.
A picture to enhance the repeated romance
of a cheeky red squirrel
in Norfolk.

The artist describes,
in faint, refined strokes,
sharp arced claws
curved in applause,
and a tail, balanced to guide
a talent that tints
the nut connoisseur,
against the bark
and spiky cones of the conifer.

Polly Stretton © 2017


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Beyond The Veil

Handkerchiefs, white twisted prayer,
sobs breach and break the mourning air,
death takes, will not be second-guessed,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

The shelter with its angled roof
hears clattering of horses’ hooves,
covers the dear departed, blessed;
her shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

The bearers seated by the corpse
know flesh, bones, come to nothing, naught
to ponder, but in time accept,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

From lych to church seems overlong,
they pause, they pray, they chant their song,
to see her pass this way – none guessed
a shroud around the lych would rest.

A hot ague shook her life away,
the children sobbed, begged her to stay,
but death took life, it sucked her breath,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Yet that was then and this is now,
time changes, untracked: marriage vow,
photo backdrop, bride with guests,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Spectres, spirits of the passed,
plague actors in the wedding cast,
this shady place does it oppress
if shrouds beneath the lychgate rest?

‘Death is the only deathless one’,[1]
time lingers brief, they’ve just begun,
this is for life, no trial or test,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Fading out the nuptial glitter,
shadows cast by bygone sitters,
carnation wilts upon his breast,
and shrouds beneath the lychgate rest.

The charm of years, a pretty place,
he gazes down on her sweet face,
craves togetherness, wedded, yes,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Polly Stretton © 2017


[1] John Payne (1842-1916)


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Two Companion Poems

These are two of the poems that I wrote for Mike Alma’s poetry anthology Voices of 1919 published in 2016. There is a special performance of Voices of 1919 poetry by distinguished local actors on National Poetry Day, Thursday 28th September, at Elmsleigh Hall, Elmslie House, 8 Avenue Road, Great Malvern WR14 3AG–7pm until 9pm plus an interval

Bells Toll

Eliza Ruscoe at number thirteen
cocks her head, hears the bells toll,
she can tell the time by this and John,
husband, signalman, will be home soon,
carrying the metallic whiff of Brasso-clean levers
and fusty yellow dusters, faintly grey.
She serves stew, high in vegetables,
war-grown in the garden
where hens peck;
it used to be full of flowers,
now all chicken shit and veg.
She thinks of her boys
and their hollow legs,
smiles,
looks forward to filling them up again,
thanks to an absence of telegrams.

Polly Stretton © 2016
First published in Voices of 1919 (2016)

John – the Signalman

He uses the yellow dusters
with the red, blanket-stitched edges
to shine the upright levers,
covering confusion and fear.
He was brought up with a stiff upper lip;
a trembling mouth was a sign of weakness.
He shows no worries for his two boys,
or ecstasy on their return,
though he feels it deep inside.
Deep down inside his joy
sits, welling up,
and his chest lifts,
a picture of pride in his sons.
His well-ordered existence
for once made a pleasure,
for they are coming home.
Coming home.

Polly Stretton © 2016
First published in Voices of 1919 (2016)

Front cover - Voices of 1919


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My Brother’s Coming Home

Nurse, mother with baby
and big brother,
stand outside the bleak,
utilitarian Ronkswood hospital.
Big brother, a little boy, is excited; it’s time
to take his brother home.

‘Look at his tiny hand, Mum.
‘Why’s he wrapped like that?
‘When will he start talking?
‘Does he cry a lot?
‘Dad says he’ll be sleeping
‘and won’t want me playing trains.
‘Is that right, Mum? Can I, can I
‘play with trains again?’

‘He won’t be playing trains with you
‘for quite a long while yet,
‘but he’ll need his big brother,
‘and look, see what he’s got?
‘There’s a little tiny gift
‘that he’s brought along for you.
‘Can you see what it is yet?
‘An engine, royal blue.’

Polly Stretton © 2017
Written for the George Marshall Medical Museum, Worcester Royal Hospital

This poem was part of a project organised by Charley Barnes for the Curator of the George Marshall Medical Museum Louise Price. Follow this link to see fellow poet on the project and Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis’s description—find out more!

 


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Take A Look At This…

A good friend of mine, Heather, whom I haven’t seen in far too long, says ‘I have performed this piece so many times now! Getting on for 40 this year alone. Here is the original recorded version by request. The live performance has developed and I take more time over it now – CRT commissioned a 6-minute piece and it turned out to be exactly that length without me having to edit it. It’s good to hear the real Emma and Nancy, and the lovely engines I recorded, and see photos of some of the ‘Idle Women’. The next time I perform it will be at the Barley Mow, Newbold on Monday. See www.alarumtheatre.co.uk for the remaining tour dates.’

Watch this YouTube of the poem, it’s amazing!