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Jenny Middleton

Jenny Middleton has written poetry throughout her life. Some of this is published in printed anthologies or on online poetry sites. Jenny is a working mum and writes whenever she can amid the fun and chaos of family life. She lives in London with her husband, two children and two very lovely, crazy cats. 

The Oranges

published online by The Blue Nib literary Magazine 

Also published in the Anthology 'Words of Power'

We'd watch dusk creep slowly over the hot

Sicilian day. The sky skin-taut and breathing

warmth, even in darkness, as the orange

trees were watered, pools formed at their white,

painted bark and green fruits, bright within grey

shadows waited solemnly un-noticed and here.


And you'd talk to me of pips; the beginnings

of business and the daily manufacture 

of components to light the camera's lights

and power batteries to record and film

all of this forever, or the digital

ever, anyway, pixelating the world


round as those Christingle gifts I crafted

at first school from oranges to universes.

Sometimes the fruits would already be moulding

as I plunged cloves into the bright, thick flesh

to scent them further, realising as I tied

a red ribbon of blood to the equator

the web of splitting segments was ourselves

splintering as we shared evening's silences;

voices lulled and quiet as oranges ripened. 

Nan's Piano

published online by The Blue Nib Literary Magazine

and by Spillwords 

Nan's Piano, a poem by Jenny Middleton at 

Mahogany, quieted 

and waiting.

We lifted the front panel

of Nan's piano out.

Its dust - sticky with age-

cracking against lacquered wood.

Its notes resting on felt-

runners poised on a starting block-

the vibration of sound a promise

as we heaved it free

of its stuffed elephant existence-

a carcass lifted - dripping

with the blood of a different world.

Of a war when Nan played piano in pubs

and working men's clubs, singing

in London between the sirens. 

That was before the x-ray of her lung

became vague of breath and sported

cavities; dark holes shown eating

and eating at youth's tissue.

VE day sang its victory

in the TB sanatorium

where she spent the last year

of the war breathing, recovering the dust

of herself from the dust of the blitz

where her angora jumper, brand new

and completely insignificant, blazed

on the washing line burning itself to memory.

The scar the surgeon's scalpel left on her back

was crescent shaped and puckered,

knitted together like everything from then.

Make Do and Mend as with music.

Damaged, surviving, the piano stands,

its sinews singing now as my daughter plays

and with each octave stretch to a chord

I hear the piano wonder Nan's music. 

Gap Year 

Published @ The Drabble2022

Gap Year | (

We knew poems before
we’d read them
sucking them into our breaths

with the salt from the sandy lake flats
feeling their warmth steam from the wooden
boards of the deck.

Our voices were those of wolves
howling slithers of jazz
as we jumped into the water

letting its cold ripples lick us and swallow us
spitting us back from the murk as flying fish
wheeling against the sky –

we were not metaphors.
We became.


Published @ Oddball Magazine 

Poem by Jenny Middleton - oddball magazine

Discos would end with the burnt, choking hiss of dry ice snaking its way between couples as they lean into each other for a last slow dance, hands reaching through each other’s fog to bury heads against shoulders and press tightly closed mouths to clothing in a desperate attempt to filter breath from the billowing, chemical clouds pulsing through a dancefloor’s neon.

Here, so many kisses are more hungry gasps for a last, fresh taste of someone else’s air, rather than love’s fume of sighs.

It’s the DJ’s way of sending everyone out on time into the cooling night – where a Viburnum’s winter blossoms perfume the falling frost.

rising smoke
palms touch
then part

I’m the Writer and the Woman Buying a Bus Ticket

published @inkppanty 

Poetry Drawer: I’m the Writer and the Woman Buying a Bus Ticket: Trauma by Jenny Middleton | Ink Pantry

Louder than the island’s traffic
cicadas’ shake a tinder percussion
from long, straying grass.

They are as unseen
as a writer, who
years away, will tap at a keyboard

and listen to a printer
scuttle over paper
in the hope of recapturing the fizz
of you and me waiting

for a bus amid buzzing
cicadas -burning with songs more
ancient than lyres
joking about the bus being as
mythical as Pegasus or Persephone

before scrunching the poem of it back
into the blankness of letters hissing
as they flicker out –
incompleting a neon cocktail sign
outside a city window, while miles away

your hand is still tightly holding mine
as we clamber aboard a bus
and pay drachmas for our tickets

Cracking the Cube

Cracking the Code – Borderless (


Parents, teachers and TV

pushed the Rubik's Cube Craze 

like some mathematician’s drug


but still  I thought more of jelly shoes
and whether they were maybe made
partly at least - of jelly cubes –
the type eaten at parties
and turned in to trifles
pulled from the elastic
of their gelatinous blocks
and dissolved from their geometry
in boiling water – growing paler and smoother
with each stir
– or pushed -
the way my diabetic uncle pops them
with urgent desire into his hot mouth’s cavern
chewing sugar into his blood

and I thought, when I was eight
about sweetness, about needing
something beyond yourself and
about how hard things have to be

before it gets easy   
twist life right.

A Poem for The Man Who Spoke So Quietly and for So Long into the Carpark Intercom

published as part of the New York Society Library's 30 Days of Poetry 2023 - April14

head bent low, pressing

into the coldness of the tannoy’s

metal grill as if murmuring intimacies


or a prayer for a world that needs

less fuss and more love of mundane

slate-grey skies


that let background clouds blur

and sing – think of a film’s score --

the music we’re not meant to notice


while an unseen attendant

hovers in some distant

glass booth, eyeing us through CCTV


and the tune becomes a signature

chanting its mossy notes

through the grit of the carpark


translating the muffled sounds 

into melodies washing over

the lips of actors, and the man


fumbling with coins

even though there may be no one listening

as their voices slip inside the music.

I Can Only List Four of the Ten Anti-Stress Tips Discussed in the Seminar | Eunoia Review (

Should I worry about this too?


I am lying on a nylon carpet – its pile flattened by thousands of feet – near to the photocopier – with fifteen or so other work colleagues – our hands turned palm up like splayed starfish drying on a barren shingly beach – listening to each other’s breathing – we are supposed to be listening to our own – but the distractions are heavy –

Learn to relax – the anti-stress therapist says in a smooth monotone over the CD recording of pan pipes – think of walking down steps into a sunken garden – there is a small stream and water babbles – listen to it – take off your shoes and feel damp moss push softness against your foot-soles – you will sleep –

Later, in bed the steps give way to the real shadows punctuating the bedroom ceiling between the gathers of curtains suspended from curled metal rings fanning the lights of cars – strobe-like – over me – and the imagining of bare feet hanker after a pair turquoise, vegetarian ballet pumps. Soft too. While distant traffic pouring fumes into darkness takes the place of the fountain’s watery singing scallops.

I turn over the day – dig through words – watch them centipede over each other and feel them burrow deeper in my thoughts. Think about not drinking wine, gin or too much coffee – remember caffeine is being used in the manufacture of tights – could it really burn cellulite? Could it? Thinking of sheer nylon now – the way it webs legs in its weightless mesh – like a word cocooning a thought until it is exhausted or eats its way out.


Audio Recording featured on the New York Society Library

(745) 30 Days of Poetry: Jenny Middleton, Lies - YouTube


See, lies are like that fifth tequila shot        

shooting to the brain and jig-sawing true     

perceptions to off-cut chaff, held in lieu      

and replacing the real with a garotte           

of cutting wires, unable to unknot                

the fictive from the living, breathing hue    

of experience.   And despite those who       

try to stop you sucking up old, dead rot    

you continue, drunk in your set dogmas   

and swaggeringly order another round,        

although your heavy head and loose jaw’s slump

is at last queasy with chat and stigmas       

that float grey as gas to choke and astound

your own throat with an asphyxiating lump.

Every-Now-and-Then It’s Good to Eat Popcorn in the Shadows

Every-Now-and-Then It’s Good to Eat Popcorn in the Shadows | Eunoia Review (

Posted on April 22, 2023 by perfectsublimemasters

I have days when I think I
would have preferred living better

if it were a film
condensed into a couple of hours and any

mundane moments stuffed together
and sped up – think of flat clouds dispersing

into blue and a dolly shot
tracking fat, globular raindrops as they strike

windows and chase each other to obscurity-
the soundtrack is an acoustic guitar

strumming symbiotically
as the camera pans to shoot the interior

of a kitchen and zooms in to focus
on the dregs in yesterday’s unwashed glasses

lip prints clustered and still
climbing at their rims.

Cajun Mutt Press Featured Writer 04/26/23 – Cajun Mutt Press (

The Sleep Counsellor Advises Us Not To Count Sheep

because soon they’ll want a drink, their mouths baying open, bleating and you’ll need to imagine a brook with banks low enough for sheep to stand and drink water from one into

an another and then another of their four stomachs that are full of churning and churning pink and red stringy muscles stretching beneath their fleece – which could be golden – like the one in the myth – that was dead –wasn’t it?

But lived and flew once before that – didn’t it? And didn’t Terry say something about people panning, bare-foot for gold in rivers and sieving the particles through oily fleeces?

How long ago? How much gold? And where exactly was this?

Now you’re back to counting again and the grains of gold are shifting into the sand of The Man who is meant to bring sleep to children in a sack that he leaves in parcels, tucked into the corners of their eyes in the morning –

can you remember rubbing its gritty, crystallised balls from the hot, dampness of your eyes into your puffy cheeks?

– and was he meant to be good or bad – that sandman with the sleep? The one who could deaden your senses and turn thoughts into dreams?

I Think of Internet Trolls when I See The Stranded Jellyfish

published @spillwords 

I Think of Internet Trolls ..., by Jenny Middleton at

brainless, bloodless and eyeless Compass Jellyfish
speck the tideline of the beach we are visiting –
I am not sure whether they are dead
or dying – my children are keen to experiment

with saving one – at least – they balance
its translucent body between two flip-flops
wet sand raining in a thick cement
from their hands as they hunch

and stagger sidestepping away – my voice
a gull – swooping around them
don’t touch -don’t touch– it has
tentacles and stings – tentacles and stings –


they plop it back in the waves but there is
no muscle spasm – no flinch of life – it is not
one of the immortals – the waves return it to the sand-
its three-month life parcelled – washed ashore

and death congeals in its gelatinous body all afternoon
as we walk on, skim a Frisbee and watch
chameleon shrimps dart from our steps
in the cold shallow sea.

Teaching Romeo and Juliet - Drama - Lesson One 

Two more stabbings bring London to its worst ever teenage homicide death toll – The Guardian 2021

Instead of the prologue’s chorus I set
Pomodoro Tomatoes – each a new
world – cardio shaped and throbbing scarlet
on desks along with blunt dining knives’ hewn
steel blades. Sixty hands, not yet crossed, will pierce
these thirty fruits spilling their fleshy globes
to split seeds laid out like runes of words - fierce
and foretelling death's stab that will disturb
the stage’s traffic and also our streets
twisting beyond the school gates to alleys
where pouched in jacket pockets sharp blades beat
in unison with misplaced allegiances
as an actor struts and frets un-lived lives
end - statistics congealing in the news.

Published in the anthology 'The Dust of Emotions' - 2022

Strawberry Marks

published on line by The Blue Nib Literary Magazine

and published in the Indelible Poetry Anthology 2020


Sticky with sun and walking

surrounded by fields

 ironed flat and gaping

beyond us to a distant

infinity of hedges


the strawberries glimmer

their tender swell

of scarlet from beneath their tri-fold

parasol leaves nestled around our feet.

The dry earth, their nest, strewn

with brittle straw and filled

with summer ripening.


Turning and turning the sun

blazes its axis to unwatchable 

tongues nagging the clear sky

to reckoning. To a justification

of blank heat and inescapable

shade-less questions.


Our fingers clutch the stalks, snap

their greenness to song

staining our fingers, indelibly

and our mouths to a blush as we eat

the swelter and sweetness

of day to red memory.

Grandad's Other Language

My Grandad spoke Irish
not to us, but with
the soft sky thudding
piano clouds above

pulling wispy, cotton vapour thin
in their gust across the sea
unknotting rain to fall with his speech
garnered and floated with the lulling songs
of other isles rich with other airs.

Or else he listened, late at night,
to a radio’s report
telling today’s news with voices
from a childhood’s mist
new sprung

with straying grass, buttercups and clovers
grown fresh and pressing long leaves
to whorls trapped under
the glassy, musty confines
of a London terrace and its red brick moods

as he murmured Latin prayers beneath
an English service to petalled oracles
crooning untranslated lore
from the webbing undulations
of Thames Valley’s silty strewn soil
till they were a-fleck with meadowy
Ballycolgan smiles.

Examining Sorrow

Boiled low in a petri dish

the rime of salt reforms

to wafers of grief.


Dissolved sea minerals

hark to their beginnings

as land born particles

gritty and whole

are laid out on filter paper


charting the depository of loss 

spelling the departures of the world

back to rock

and the glitter of dry eyes.


Published by Ink Pantry and in the anthology 'Revision's End'

We have taken to living life
as if it were jazz
rouging wan days
with bright notes
born from barren weeks

hollow as the tin-can lanterns
recycled and strung up
in the spindly birch trees
by kids next door.
Each cylinder's dark interior
is pierced with geometric patterns
so they gleam with empty space
marking out the night
with absence, as death is cut
into our lives.

We philander from the garden
and let it straggle, feeding
on its own leaves, drunk
with fermenting sugars
set to sweeten autumn
without us.

Grief's time-signature surges
days in eight bar riffs
dubbing evenings
to waves of past voices -
ghosts we drink to extinction -
and stand at last
in the darkness of a new street
awake and broken amongst dawn.

Unbearable Lightness

I lent Kundera’s novel,
and then separately,
a pair of daisy spotted culottes
(smart enough for an interview)
to friends
light enough not to return,
their words, ceiling trodden
and walked to air.

I find I still wonder where
the pages spore their print
in absence
from my shelf
as if they were
chilli pepper seeds –
papery and disk like
skimming ideas to flame
even after they are eaten
and gone.

And whether clothes
absorb memories
with their wear
to larger shapes,
stained and stretched
to age.

The rails of thrift shops
hung, heavy

and spooling sky.


published in the anthology 'coming home 2021' 

The plough’s metal ribs are turned to the sky. Rust flakes in fingernails from the iron core of abandoned machinery amongst the unmown grass sprung with daisies and summery warmth. Flattened clouds rule the sky, pulled taut as clavichord strings that hum with a storm’s jigger at the afternoon and its wobble of espaliered peaches.
We run barefoot with the children, laughing, circuiting the field, drunk with exertion, feeling the rub of damp roots fleck with the music of first rain.

weather charts
blue sky to numbers
rain blurs us

Covid 19

(published at Global Poemic


Cut a year to cloth

and faces to patchwork -

hemming breath beneath

a stitch-work of masks hanging

like forlorn sheets

queuing on washing lines

blown by muffled speech

between distant poles.


The virus, a ragged spectre,

spiking the air, unseen

and threading its wheezy

spoors at our skin.


And whole days bound by a string

of statistics peddling

us to the margins of empty streets

whittling our interactions

to cards tapped and slithered

between blue gloves

and Perspex, cold as pebbles

battered by a turning tide.


Shot high as December stars,

a vaccine punctuates

the closing year with a firework ellipsis

blazing at our arms,

injected and alive with blood’s

red dot of hope.  

The Cedar Shingle Roof

(published in the 2019 Anthology Reach)

Rain shells the sky

and slides its drama down;

while arching over us

the cedar shingle roof

is silvered with air

and age.

The red of its youth

washed with autumn

and faded strong;

a will bent with survival.

Dad hammered the tiles 

together thirty 

or so years ago

pounding the doubled-dipped

galvanised nails home

to the bed of rafters



Reverberating still, his hands

ridged with veins and visible

as ropes beneath canvas sails

fold around newspapers

full with giving

as the forest gave.

The turn of sky to cloud

a blink away. 

Silk Gloves

Wearing Silk Gloves Once More – Borderless (

Gloves, lined with silk’s soft blur

write my hands with memory;

their interior warm with the smooth touch

of things held and held before.


Creased and tender in their slide

over skin, it is as if we were relearning

our vows, as a language grown old sings

with words once rusted,

seized and deadened,

amongst a tangle of docks and nettles,

or choked with bind weed’s grasp.


Now as clay is worked clear,

turned on its wheel to rings

and worn up to the tenderness of sculpture

these words rise from their base vowels

to sentence the sublime

unfastening us from everyday

routine and rhyme.

Small Journeys

Published in the Indelible Poetry Anthology 2020


Her tiny hands hold
a sky map pinpricked with light
pinpointing the stars
in their burst against the shade
of fuzzy living room walls,
stencilling our world with
the cold night of space.

Lines are drawn webbing a lace
of creatures and frozen
gods from emptiness to a story
once navigated by sailors’ briny eyes,
their tiller jib set to scribe
the arc of comets against
the chop of sea and flap of sail
tipping beyond the horizon.

While our home is shrunk
amongst the criss-cross of
small city streets, the dark cut only
with a motoring slash of cars
and the yawn of drivers heavy
at the wheel, their cabs
hemispheres of intermittent
night and strobes
slicing towards home

the eaves of the world
sagging at the pitch,
the stars a fibre optic
spray, hazy and shifting


Glass confetti melts fast, blurring jagged fragments to the hot, smooth translucence of a vase turned by Murano glass workers. Metal rods swing to the hammer of a kiln’s volcanic roar as molten glass is dipped from the mass of flames and rolled against a rag to form.

heat blows to stillness; words fall from mouths to print.

Outside the workshop’s fiery dark, canals eddy with the push of boats; lapping at the timber supports of the pier, tiny waves turned to tongues erode the foundations. We walk, jarring experiences separately.

nightshade blooms
as closing day cedes

Winning the Vote

(in memory of Emily Wilding Davidson)

Published in the anthology 'Grains of Sand'


Afternoon streets loll in hazy, summery heat,
schools, church halls and nurseries have installed
plywood voting booths where pencils droop
on stringy threads from thin walls
waiting for plumbago graphite lines
to sigh-hiss over plumbago graphite lines
whispering Xs to paper ridged with welts
run long with shady tissue marks
webbing the suffragettes’ win
for ‘Votes For Women’ a century ago.

Emily Davison died on a balmy day
like this in June - 1913-
hate mail still frothing rabid words
as she lay in a coma,
her throat already raw, her skull already cracked
from force feeding and her fall
down the prison steps.

Thousands watched her last protest
play and replay
on the Derby Day Pathé News
at the Picture House.
Emily walks clear of the crowd, cuts
the race-course rails,
arm outstretched, steady, a suffragette
scarf fluttering amongst the rush of horses’
hooves and hot flanks steaming speed
while she moves before the king’s horse,
and they smash at history’s
grassy post-stamp. 

Later, the jockey recalled her face
twining with his own pain, spiralling with gas
galloping tragedy smack against tragedy.

Crosses drawn; ballots 
cast - prickling and branding
thorns at voters' backs.

Pub Scene

Published @ Spillwords

The woman at the bar
reveals a flying, beribboned heart
tattooed on the inner-side of her slender forearm –
its inky feathers lifting with her skin

as she drinks beer from a bottle
of Stella Artois –
her manicured hand a fist
curled around a cool, damp neck of glass
hard as the love


that cannot settle
in her mind– its raw persistence
beaten from her blood
curdled with long nights and lies
and then made light of – given wings –

hollow muscles that soar
and flex behind her grey-green eyes
that dip beneath glittery, glued on lashes
as she wordlessly tells another guy
that she can’t love at all – not
anymore- but would he like to help her try?



Published in the Anthology 'coming home 2021'

Stubs of samphire shove
up from salty, marshy flats

viridescent as fables growing
stronger than the shifting land

freckling flowers in a conspiracy
with the breeze’s rush over

greying, darkening waves
finning, pummelling voices

with the vows
of those that lived once

to dance rag-time joy
in a brittle, quavering world

the leaves and roots singing on
downwards, into earth’s bones

even as the sea washes
everything aloft - sparkling - away.

Winter Birth  

That winter

the labour-ward

giddied with Entonox,

each breath a tubed loop running

from cylinder to mask to mouth,

tethering minutes to its gaseous flairs.

Thinning dawn’s contractions to ghosts

and dilating them with a new sky

grown from set bones. 


Birth is

all slippery flowers;

hibiscus, blood-red-sweet

and sub-tropical, stemming

from the warm tides

of rooted continents 

to a harbour of gentle arms.


Flesh, bright with arias of pain

suck sopranos inside singing,

self-circling bleeding note

to fledging note.

While an infant

lies gentle in a crib,

flushed with first breath,

rose-mallow soft.

The Flat Line

Once in maths, we made moebius strips,

snaking paper from its brittle, flat plane

to the impossibility of infinity.


We'd cut the paper to long, thin strands,

let them slide, smooth as laces,

through our hands before

We single twisted then glued

the stubs to invisibility,

ironing their separateness from existence.


Then we'd watch, with unfading awe

a pen skate a line, unbreaking

and running on both sides of the paper


circling endings to beginnings

and thoughts to overlap with thoughts'

experiences, again and again

as you would wind my hair

around the curved warmth of your fingers

coiling its fibres through laughter's 


flash to helical perfection;

the coded core

of memory's reverberations. 

The First Flute

(As published in 2019 Reach Poetry Anthology)

Even amongst the mires and marshes

at our beginnings we envied the birds

their song grown sweet amid the tawny thorns 

of survival. Schemes were lit and fires

laid smoke to climb through the roast heat of bones

and blister of wings until the remains

displayed their hollow, fleshless tunnel caves. 

Here the first enchantments lifted from lips,

swift fingers coaxed the perforated pieces

of death to fresh flight of flurried dance

now strumming soul soft from our stereos. 

A Brighter Burn

That night the light was slow,

a faint glimmer before a brighter burn.

The singed green shade twisting

in the faint breeze mouthed 

through half open windows.

I'd got up, too hot to sleep,

too tired really for those ends

of things really that tangle

a mind's late thoughts,

when a moth traced the vagueness 

at the corners of the room,

its confusion crashing at the walls,

the brightness its beacon,

and then its silhouette inside the stretched

satin shade seemed muffled

and drawn large as those paper puppets

in shadow theatres of old preconfiguring

its own demise and fizzed throes

of death as staged and restaged tragedies.


Then the stench of absence and heat

was all, a universe swallowed whole.

Shutting the lights off, I stumble to the stairs

that fall into wheeling darkness.


As published online by spillwords

in the infra dark of red hues

he develops photos the old way

his hands tilting dark avenues

side to side, crossing, caressing

chemicals drift to oblong lakes

rippling the grey-scale tones

of light to a glossed retina;

an imprinted code of vision, 

fished from flimsy film to frame firm

the gaze of yesterday's wild eyes - 

dripping with days done and captured

for a slow show reformation.

each is pegged to dry and retell

forever that blaze of a second's

wire crackling fresh

and kissing warmly back with life

lush with the moment.


Tight, between your thumb and index finger

You hold a match ready to strike a flame.

With rushing friction bursting from the tinder

Of glassy powdered card and your swift aim

You will change something forever.  Blame

Free and with a flick you could set the spark

Of destruction eating all of acclaim

To the hollow hunch of a charred burnt mark;

Searing all with just one match sweeping in an arc.  


The curve of you waking wise baby

Strangely natural and unknown grows unstoppably within.

You float, swim, kick, my conscious self

demanding my wearied world

awake for your own daisy-eyed looped dance.

The greying mornings dawn hunched over

since the blue dividing line proclaimed

your presence. A drawn line in my life too,

Then the metallic bleakness and longing.

Never have I felt so far from known land.

The material world other, outer and distant dim -

two thousand Christmas cribs crying anew

rhythmically rocking with visceral reality.

A pain suffused, strange secret of continuity

shivers as I pass past to you

Universal child. 

Expectant we wait and watch your image beat

on dark screens and hear the muffle

of new life snuggle the world within.

Baby bigger than beyond;

A universe to come.


Copyright Jenny Middleton


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