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Walking Out on All Hallows

 

Through a tunnel of dusk and mist

under a silver line between thick clouds

as crows rasp an evening conversation

an exchange of news and alarm.

 

This tiny parish was my world once

I know there is a ruined wooden cottage

behind ivy tangles, and a badger in the woods

dragging her striped flanks through ferns.

 

I witness snowdrops, shimmer of bluebells

mourn red sandstone’s slow erosion

and fields laid bare by ash die-back

Bone white sheep stare at me.

 

The pub’s lime-wash walls are shabby

though the glittering windows invite me in.

I don’t enter. I photograph the haunted vicarage

where Tennyson’s father’s footsteps pace

 

watch for Clay’s Light* hovering over the fen

scared to see my face inside.

I turn and track the pathway home.

Is this where I’ll come when I’m a haunting?

 

* https://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/folklore/clays-light

 

 

Fox

 

She speaks to me all through the night.

I walk digitigrade in the yawling dark

while peaceful and secluded in my room

 

my ear the keen sensor of a hypervigilant survivor

feels brush of fur - whine, yelp, bark, cry

explosive and combative call

 

my sleep swollen lips mutter apology

for my grandfather who betrayed his class

cow-towing to toffs as he biked behind the hunt

and my own sins, spreading like palm oil

on my age mottled skin

 

this kinship, tantric connection,

the ferment of fear.

Let the night keep us

safe and listening.

 

 

Winter Anthem

 

I want to feel bark under my fingertips

breathe air so cold it makes my bronchi flinch and contract.

I want my heart to beat faster

blood rush to sound in my ears

 

I want to smell the musty/fresh aura

of friable earth held in my palms

see fragments of acorn cups, pine needles

even a worm, threading through pulverised stone

I want to see new growth, a snowdrop

breaking through ice on a pallet of dead oak leaves.

 

All day long, grey shame is reflected in the sky,

a silent pause before new life explodes

rewilding,  despite everything,

furious chatter of sparrows, a blackbird’s dew drop song.

Pauline Sewards is a retired psychiatric nurse. Born in Lincolnshire and currently living in Brighton, they write about place, community, music, working class and women’s history. Their published poetry collections are This is the Band (Hearing Eye 2018) and Spirograph (Burning Eye 2020). Pauline loves reading and hosting live events.

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