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 find stray minutes between the chaos of family life. She lives in London with her husband, two children and two very lovely, crazy cats.
published at The Blue Nib
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.
published at The Blue Nib
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.
published at The Blue Nib
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Grief's time-signature surges
days in eight bar riffs
to waves of past voices -
ghosts we drink to extinction -
and stand at last
in the darkness of a new street
awake and broken with dawn.
I lent Kundera’s novel,
and then separately,
a pair of daisy spotted culottes
(smart enough for an interview)
light enough not to return,
their words, ceiling trodden
and walked to air.
I find I still wonder where
the pages spore their print
from my shelf
as if they were
chilli pepper seeds –
papery and disk like
skimming ideas to flame
even after they are eaten
And whether clothes
with their wear
to larger shapes,
stained and stretched
The rails of thrift shops
hung, heavy and spooling
sky, touched, scraped
with the beyond
of these days.
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.
blue sky to numbers
rain blurs us
(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
The red of its youth
washed with autumn
and faded strong;
a will bent with survival.
Dad hammered the tiles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Later, the jockey recalled her face
twining with his own pain, spiralling with gas
galloping tragedy smack against tragedy.
Crosses drawn; ballots cast
past brambles prickle branding
thorns at voters' backs.
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.
all slippery flowers;
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,
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.
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,
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
with the other obituaries.
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
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.
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.
Our coats straggle
clammy with winter,
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
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
inside the cavity opens itself
x-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.
the hush hangs itself
between our stuttering
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
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.
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.
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 the rocks.
Here the yews and boxes vie
for dark space, waxy with years.
Beneath, The River Mole scampers
around its stepping stones
ever too widely spaced and patterned
with small damp imprints
of many crossings.
And from the soil crawl the rooted
fingers of trees; ghostly and climbing
from the pitted chalk
that weeps its secrets thinly
with the rain
while we retrace our sloped steps
to their base.
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 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
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.
(this poem was first published in 1996 in the anthology 'Turning Points')
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
How obstinate your eyes are,
Like two black beads
Riveted to your skull,
even chiding your persistent
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.