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Writings and Witterings


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Spring Morning Steps

A walk in the morning, a fine spring day,
eight little legs prance through dew in wet grass,
they ignore drops and drips, they run and play,
Mexican stand off, bow to each other,
chase round the meadow, chase birds and squirrels,
sniff at March scents, searching for who knows what?
This is walking dogs on a fine spring day.

Polly Stretton © 2021


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Mothering Sunday 2021

The kids flew the nest long ago
their chicks are grown
and have chicks of their own.
All send something–
a text with a kissing emoji,
‘There’s a bag by the gate.’

Lockdown.
Mum texts, ‘Thank you,’
adds a hug, sends love,
collects the bag before it gets damp.

A tear
trails through blusher,
marks make up
that no one will see,
splashes onto her best blouse.
She thinks of other mums,
fingers tremble,
she puts the TV on,
switches it off.

A cup of tea and sit on the sofa
surrounded by gifts and cards,
she opens the cards, alone,
reads,
misses faces,
misses hugs,
will open the packages later.

Polly Stretton © 2021

😘


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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 –
kill.
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


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A Flower Growing in the Wrong Place

A soothing blue cumulus of cranesbill clusters beneath laurel, the petals grey veined, stretching for sky under a leaf green canopy. Pecking flowers clamber up tangled with a sweet clingy weed, you know the one, with sticky burrs later in the year. There’s an empty bed with last year’s faded, crumbling woodchips; the scent lingers still. Look again, the bed is not so empty—a crumpled weed control membrane lurks partly hidden by compost, held down by terracotta bricks butted up to decking. Silverly shining, a meshed pit shows off yellow ragwort; a flower growing in the wrong place addresses the buzz and clatter of a chainsaw in the park.

Polly Stretton © 2021


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New Year’s Day

At New Year
we stood in the back garden
watched sparkles and flares,
listened to the bangs and screeches
of city and county fireworks.
No scent of cordite marred or jarred
the sweet rural air.
Nothing destroyed the calm of the countryside,
the homes of small animals and birds.
No sky lanterns polluted the night.

We reflected on 2020
—the Covid year—
we’re glad to see the back of it.
This brand new year will be better,
it can’t be worse, we decided.

We thought of dear friends and family,
of lost friends, and unhappy families,
of the marvellous NHS;
of sights previously unseen.
We thought of unthought-of happenings
and poor planning
that made last year dire.

Despite all, we are still human
and so, full of hope.
No breath of snow whispered past.
A touch of frost tweaked noses and toes,
confirmed life.

No matter what, the ceiling
of the country always celebrates
time, people, purpose.
We stood in the back garden
and sipped spiced hot wine.

Polly Stretton © 2021


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New Year

At New Years Eve
we’ll stand in the back garden
to watch sparkles and flares,
listen to the bangs and screeches
of city and county fireworks.

No scent of cordite will mar or jar
the sweet rural air.
Nothing shall destroy the calm of the countryside,
the homes of small animals and birds.
There’ll be no sky lanterns to pollute the night.

We’ll reflect on 2020
—the Covid year—
and be glad to see the back of it.
The coming year will be better,
it couldn’t be worse, we’ve decided.

We’ll think of lost friends,
unhappy families,
the marvellous NHS;
of sights previously unseen,
unthought-of happenings
and poor planning that made the year dire.

Despite all, we are still human
and so, full of hope.
Will a breath of snow whisper past?
Will frost tweak at nose and toes?
No matter what, the ceiling
of the country celebrates time,
people, purpose.
We’ll stand in the back garden
and sip spiced hot wine.

Polly Stretton © 2020


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First Love

piano

The piano is in need of tuning
so it can be played in key
music is my first love
rock opera symphony

I love music sheets tucked inside the seat
of piano stool beneath
music soft music loud music beautiful
uplifting and complete

Dissonance: off key
jangles discord—clang clang
the music chaotic bitter sharp
air disturbed—bang bang

Black keys and white keys
wait proud and still
for the piano tuner’s lever
(here he comes up the hill)

He plays sotto voce
presto forte staccato allegro
adagio tosto tutti vivace
tenerezza eco o o o o oh

A tonic in tune once more
affettuoso read the score
pianissimo dolcissimo
come play me piano implores

Published in Girl’s Got Rhythm by Black Pear Press 2012 and reprinted 2016. Reposted for Poetics – Under the Influence of Music, a prompt from Anthony Desmond, 2014, at dversepoets.

Sotto voce: in an undertone
Presto: very fast
Forte: loud; strong
Staccato: brief; detached
Allegro: fast
Adagio: slowly
Tosto: swift; rapid
Tutti:
all; everyone
Vivace: lively
Tenerezza: tenderly
Eco: echo; an effect in which a group of notes is repeated


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No Small Trifle

T’was the night before Christmas
and, in our house,
nothing was stirring,
no rat, bat or grouse.
But mousse made appearance
and trifle with cream.
It’s Christmas Eve,
time to fantasise, dream.
The tree is waiting
for baubles and balls,
holly and ivy
to deck up the halls.
Home is so … homely
at Christmas
and neat,
with carpets fresh vacuumed
and dusting complete.
Parsnips, potatoes,
sprouts and fine wine,
sherry and cabbage
and walnuts sublime;
bacon and turkey,
pudding and snow,
pigs in their blankets,
tree lights all aglow.
I’ve laid the wreaths for the parents long gone;
yesterday’s garland a baby’s swan song.
Christmas memories of bygone years.
Now, look to the future,
enjoy a few beers.

Polly Stretton © 2013

Merry Christmas everyone 😘 🎄


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He Drinks Blood

You will know him by his powers,
his inhuman speed,
his sinister silence,
the way he can fly at the flick of an eyelid;
by his ability to conceal himself in the shadows,
his talon-like claws,
very sharp;
made for tearing flesh.
Just know that he has to drink blood.
He has to drink blood,
or age fast, falling
to dust if no blood is found.
But then, you will know him by—
he cannot tolerate garlic,
can’t abide sunlight or crosses
and to him, water is loathsome, it dilutes his power.

He drinks blood;
coppery-tasting human blood,
rich, claret human blood,
it is mine he seeks now.

I sense him getting closer,
secreted in the darkest shadows,
concealed by the cloaks in the closet,
hidden beyond the hat stand in the hallway,
stalking slowly up dust-laden stairs
—silent—
he waits for me to fall asleep.
I know it,
yet can stay awake
but for a few minutes more.
It has been 11 days
—264 hours—

I cannot keep my eyes
open much longer,
even though,
I know,
the moment they close
he will siphon the life out of me.
He has tried twice, already,
I am so weak.

Cold, cold, icily cold, he draws the blood from my soul.
He drinks blood;
coppery-tasting human blood,
rich, claret human blood,
it is mine he drinks now.

Polly Stretton © 2020

This poem is one of 42 poems in the 2020 collection The Alchemy of 42. To see more: https://blackpear.net/polly-stretton/the-alchemy-of-42


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Haiku #60

Dusk, and the moon rises,
nicotiana scent wafts
with evening jasmine.

Polly Stretton © 2020

This is the sixtieth Haiku that I’ve posted on a daily basis since napowrimo 2020, and it’s also the last day of June, a good place to pause for the time being as I focus on my new collections of poetry ‘The Alchemy of 42’ and ‘Growing Places’ – look out for them – and thank you for reading and following.