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Jenny Middleton

The Cedar Shingle Roof

(As 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

above.

 

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. 

The Flat Line

Once in maths, we made moebius strips,

snaking paper from its brittle, flat plane

to the imposibility of infinity.

 

We'd cut the paper to thin long 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. 

Obituaries 

(Gold Winning poem in Kevin Watt's Object Impermanence Competition) 

As before

I see you trek carefully, feet edging

the pitted fissures that the wilds of storms

melt to rocks cleaving their chalky damp cries

to sheer the falling heights and pull down slow

then swift to the vanishing point of shore

below the eaten crags.

Then your voice,

wavering as grass ridging the back of cliffs,

their burs and seeded ears sighing faintly

against the sweep of coast and hollow 

flattening of the breeze,

begins to call,

sharp and acrid 

through the lightning fused air.

 

And it is as it was once,

the summer a smile of sea

and sky tumbled russet bright 

with longings and plans beyond

the edge of us,

before the sirens and urgent

quiet of the ending invaded,

lancing at today, listing

it under

with the other obituaries.  

Brighton Pier

 

Over the sea and leading nowhere

the pier soars, its gapped boards

pulling us to its promenade.

Planks are parted with a promised

glimpse of the ocean tumbling

and foaming feet below -

its waves climbing around

the wrought iron red posts

supporting us all

to the end.

Here the fun fair screeches

its rollercoasters into the sky

and the helter-skelter spirals

riders down on their coir mats

through Victoriana to

the pinstriped candy-floss stalls beyond.

The yellow heat of oil

and frying food wanders the air

unhealthily wraith like,

enticing as the ghost train ride's

beckoning ghouls,

their scripted screams

staccato stabbing at the thump of rock music

all around us until we are

full again of swaying knowledge

and vertigo; pitched against 

good sense and firm land

somewhere inside forever. 

Music

Slashed as paint ripping 

wild the canvas of its confines

you woke the room,

your music a stringed surge 

reverberating the grey.

Around the round words

your lips move as

delicate as gardinias drift,

as electric as panthers wag

the minted night

owning us more than angels

and the very lyric breath 

of each plucked pink note

is a danced destiny.  

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 vaguenss 

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.

Pelts

Our coats straggle

on pegs,

clammy with winter,

scarves tangling

into a fog that drifts

from our limp

cast off forms.

We gather in halls

the silk of our scalped insides

murmuring and our skins

pressed into the animal darkness

of cloakrooms dripping

with the forest's damp

still. 

Room 

the room grows colder now

and greyness climbs windows

where nets sag with smoked days' deaths

your hands stare empty 

and news suffuses the void;

heavy punctuated prose passes

its statements.

 

inside the cavity opens itself

e-rayed exposure of an end

and ashen acceptance

are all the letters send

 

outside fish pool together,

gold as sun shadows,

trapped in beauty

and needing no comprehension. 

multiplying;

the hush hangs itself

between our stuttering 

closures. 

photographer

As published online by spillwords https://spillwords.com/photographer/

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

oddly 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

live as wire crackling fresh

and kissing warmly back with life

lush with the moment.

The Unsaid

It's the cool edge of words

That frees truth

To the heights of dark skies.

Cutting as the sharpest stars;

Slicing at those syllables

Uttered in hasty exchanges

And sauntering into the bleakest streets.

Here the unsaid elements exist;

Cut free and 

Fluttering.  

Dance

closing, firstly hands together

then slowly pausing and parting

palms brushing warm with night softness

between strangers, greeting, passing

speechlessly to an intimacy

of evening and orange lit lights

winking at a journey now full

of pages empty as islands

drifting in a spiralled foam surge

of oceans' freshly fashioned form;

volcanic and heat swept upwards

from the very sea floored inky depths;

alluring as atlases mapping

newly a bright world unknown. 

Box Hill

A snaking spool of steep

jagged chalk; this impossible slope

Cycles high to View Point

Where the eyes of ancestors

Looked as I look at the trees

Scragging their roots between rocks.

Like waxy years the yews vie

for dark space.

Beneath, The River Mole scampers

Round its stepping stones ever

Too widely spaced and patterned 

With small damp imprints

Of many crossings.

From the soil crawl the

Rooted fingers of trees; climbing ghosts

From the pitted chalk

That thinly weeps its secrets 

With the rain

While we retrace our sloped steps

To their base.

Match

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.  

Curve

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 longings...

Never have I felt so far from known land.

The material world other, outer and distant dim..

and two thousand Christmas cribs cry anew

and rhythmically rock with visceral reality.

A pain suffused, strange secret of continuity

shivers as I pass past to you

Universal child. Can you carry our

paling shadows to silver solutions?

Expectant.

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.

Anorexic

(this poem was first published in 1996 in the anthology 'Turning Points')

So fine

Your sugar bones

and porcelain smile.

Too expert a host

to this weak, torturous guest

That shivers inside your lacerated mind,

and through your gossamer

skin cloak.

How obstinate your eyes are,

Like two black beads

Riveted to your skull,

even chiding your persistent 

lingering flesh.

Still your organs pump,

stubbornly alive, human

and reflective only between

the panes of hated mirrors

into which you gaze with morose curiosity,

watching always its sad winter faces

and blue, insubstantial masks, shapes

filtering between the forest of tubes

that devotedly offer up their sap

to sustain this liquid existence.

Your hands lie, so passively exposed,

huddling together their fingers

like spent match stick dolls

in silent protest against us

while you dream defiantly 

of the luxury of self violation.

Yet such stamina

and so steely a will,

so determined and impassioned;

pure ambition inverted;

gobbling its own 

flower from existence. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curve

The curve of you waking wisw