Poems (Witch House)

Here are a few poems from my first collection…

Original cover art to Obby Robinson, The Witch House of Canewdon and Other Poems (Lethmachen Press, 2014)

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Black Dog Ode

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Late that evening, I came upon a stray dog 

Waiting at the river, each hair upon its great form 

Seemed to me as black as the deepest water 

Resting in the silt.

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Although I am not one for superstition

There was an undeniable, uncanny thrill; 

Death is said to accompany such creatures. 

I put out my hand

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Half in dread that it would find nothing but air.

Shocking it was for me, then, when the sure touch 

Objects alone possess was all my fingers 

Met, more terrifying

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Than any insubstantial shade could be.

For what is more spectral than matter shorn of 

Reflection, and felt without feeling? The ghost?

It is but a thing,

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Dumb in its solidity. Why else is Shuck content 

Only to stare and be still? My hand had stretched 

Out beyond the want in which all life is steeped, 

Grasped I know not what…

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Look! I bring it forth that you might see. Shake it.

Can you feel the cold fire? For such a far flung thing 

It is interesting how soon it comes upon one, 

Carpal close at times.

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Here I take my leave. Care should be taken when

Walking at night, by rivers especially. The 

Nub of our world should not be felt: it is a 

Great black dog. Fare-well.

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A Cold Term at St. Pats

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i

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In my father’s garden,

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Under the water butt

and the bench,

The ground is

Granular,

Wet and black

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And the witch hazel,

Thin and black

Against the snow,

Jumps like a bird.

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ii

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A boy, his trousers hitched

To his belly,

Thrusts his legs apart;

This is his game and I am not to play.

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A door opens violently

Against my shoulder.

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Two boys laugh.

Foul words are spoken

In the dormitories

At night.

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iii

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On a spring day,

Out on the boundary,

I minutely examine

The grass before me.

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A little way off now I see

A snake’s skin

Three overs later

And it is in my hand.

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iv

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I have made

A further discovery:

The treatment I receive

Is not typical.

Something

Has been seen…

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v

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In a study,

With a little shelf of books

And water on a stove,

Wheeler’s legs, pulled up in

Warm and laundered uniform,

Set me alight,

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And I know

With great certainty

That it is not for this

That I am singled out.

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Rather, it is a question of order.

The pecking order.

I get it, of course,

But – terrible to say –

I see there is a sight

That fails to.

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Imagine

(I am thinking of the snake that got away…)

The beast that sees us

At our ceremonies,

Shorn of the differences

We hold dear.

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vi

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Evensong:

The Headmaster takes as his text

The blind of Isaiah.

I carry the skin in my pocket,

Now fallen apart.

I feel one scale

then another,

At each –

A mystery.

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Earlier, in the bathroom

I held one to the light

and thought of

pots moving in winter

And clear spring air.

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vii

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Fielding wide once more,

My eyes close

And I raise my face to the sun,

Swearing allegiance

To the cold sight

That curls about the dorms,

Flicking its tail in the library,

Its tongue in chapel.

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viii

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I was wrong, of course:

The serpent goes unrecognised –

Ferociously so.

I am met with a blind passion

For I see

With immobilising clarity:

Schoolboys with

Scrubbed and bloody cheeks,

Wide collars

And exposed knees,

Hidden excitations

and doughy, fat-steeped thumbs;

Dorms of steaming wood and wool;

Bathrooms with frozen pipes;

The choir by candle light,

And on the cricket pitch

The distant uniformity of whites.

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This too I know:

Some of them

Will be swallowed whole.

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ix

I am one of the few to travel home by train.

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My hope is – of course –

That scales might fall:

The garden in frost

Warm to my eyes;

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My head upon my mother’s arm

And my father singing;

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A walk across fields,

The girl I am to marry

riding by