Poetry Corner

If you would like to submit a poem for consideration, please e-mail it to: Julia Johnson: j.johnson112@btinternet.com


I am peering from an upstairs window.

It is so quiet out.

What do I hear if I am forced

(the forcing is my own) and  listen?

I hear a sparrow chippily haranguing

from the tree next door,

I hear a woman’s voice along the road

raised for distancing and definite as the bird’s

but as indistinct of meaning,

and the bass hollow mumble

of the man she’s talking to.

I hear no sounds of transport whatsoever.


A motor-mower fires up

with a sudden pushy splutter, then

settles into droning and almost drowns it all.

The sparrow’s note grows frantic.

The talkers talk inaudibly.

My door ajar clunks softly on its latch-plate

in subtle rhythm with the eddies of the air

as the house, the whole world,

holds its breath.


I am trying to connect ,

to join up what is happening to anything

that I know or that I’ve ever  heard of,

to make a shape I recognise

and could respond to.

But I fail, as I’ve failed to find significance

in the random sounds outdoors.


They’re as empty of any portent  

as that solitary sign of hope

the US submarine was sent

half-way across a post-apocalyptic

world in On the Beach to check for,

where those thin sequences of morse

were not some miraculous survivor

keying out into the void mankind’s last messages

but nothing more nor less

than the fitful tapping of a soft-drinks bottle

on a morse key

by the open  window

of an abandoned office,

the bottle-neck held in a noose of blind-pull.  

Michael Spilberg

* * * * * * * * * * * *


this year, and Blenheim’s so beautiful,

the grass so lush, the trees in bud.

I never noticed birds like this before –

no traffic hum, scarcely a dog or child,

almost my private kingdom.  When I pass

scattered walkers I shout ‘Good morning’

in distant camaraderie

(get too close, you might not survive) –

glad to be here, alive.


The old town now is quiet, eerie

like the aftermath of some great war.

Essential shoppers scuttle from store to store.


The magnolia I pass each day

enjoys its annual fortnight of glory.

Nature everywhere renews.

Purchased anemones console,

as I read Pamela, watch The Killing,

phone family, e-mail friends

and wait for this to end.

Steven Bliss

* * * * * * * * * * * *


the lamb and tiger gambol together,

dolphin and turtle fear no net

or spear – why gorge on flesh, when scented

air feeds every appetite?


Our only work is making plays

or a search for the perfect metaphor

in songs and sonnets.  We close our eyes

to see ourselves:  we know, and are.


Love’s not possession, hunger, sweat,

sudden death in a rumpled bed:

two souls merge in one kiss.


God, it’s said, walks the groves

at night.  The blackened earth marks those

who saw and shrivelled in bliss.


Steven Bliss 

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Surprised by joy - impatient as the Wind

I turned to share the transport - Oh! with whom

But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,

That spot which no vicissitude can find?

Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind - 

But how could I forget thee? - Through what power,

Even for the least division of an hour, 

Have I been so beguiled as to be blind

To my most grievous loss! - That thought's return

Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,

Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,

Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;

That neither present time, nor years unborn

Could to my sight that heavenly face restore. 

William Wordsworth

Submitted by Emerita Pilgrim:  Emerita mentions hearing ‘Surprised by Joy’ read at Blackfriars Priory in a Homily on Easter morning with reference to the Anastasis fresco in the Chora Church in Istanbul.  An image is attached.

NOVEMBER GARDENING                   

The rising air, shrouded in fresh wood-fired

Smoke, finds woollen clothes at rushing pace and

Weaves a scent through outdoor hair.  Beyond the

Bonfire – of shrinking quince leaves and sawn-up

Boughs, roughly framed by the urgency of

Orange flames – a form with contemplating

Arms is reaching for a flickering tree.

I watch him work through sepia tones, through

Distorting heat and wind-swept clarity,

As he cuts through sleeping hollow stems with

Blunted sheers.  I am happy just to rake,  

As I did long ago over my own  

Impaled leaves and startled lawn – the essence

Of those childhood days to be outdoors and

Breathe a different air.  The chill, that rubbed

Our faces with its rose-pink blush and numbed

Our toes in moulded boots, coaxed few words out

Of swaddled thoughts.  Today, the autumn breeze

Is busy with its subtle turns, chasing

Flurries of paper ash into misty

Eyes and, before these flames, I fold my arms

And lighten my heels on wet fledgling grass.


Juliet Mash

* * * * * * * * * * * *


So, I was watching – no

I was listening - well, ok

watching and listening both,

from a distance, as one does

these days, through a screen,


dogging the footsteps of an Italian

long domiciled at the Spanish court,

watching and listening. Thank you

connectivity, thank you laptop, thank you

(grudgingly) large corporation.


So observing music of the night,

noting angular elbows sawing

through the streets of Madrid

I am hypnotised.

I repeat it over and over.

It becomes my earworm

whenever I walk, in Iberia or no,

frontwards or back.


The drunks reel to bed,

the watch rolls its drum,

the ditties echo by the end

to the silvery sigh of moonlight,

the fading tramp of feet.

The street-music is over;

we’re all in retreat.


Michael Spilberg

* * * * * * * * * * * * 


A spectro-sceptic previously untroubled

  by apparitions found himself one night

late middle-aged, awake, with pulse-rate doubled

  and pounding heart, deep in a state of fright.

Unaccustomed, as it were, to public spooking,

  he thought at first there must be an intruder.

Trembling, arose, and crept down, weaponed, looking

  - saw silent, seated  shades -  a shock far ruder

than expected.   At his intake of breath

  hooded faces turned towards him. It was cold.

I know, he thought, this is to do with Death.

  Timor mortis – now that I grow old.

The wraiths all stood as one and glided round

  him, fingers pointing; the room seemed thronged.

Death comes just once, he said. What have I found?

  We are your past, said one. I'm whom you've wronged.

And I, another hissed, am your regrets.

  And I, a third, someone you never kissed.

And I, a fourth, am all your unpaid debts

  to Life – the golden chances that you missed.

So each by each laid all his mistakes bare,

  in spitting sibilants foretold his Fate,

then left.  Two vowed return, the grimmest pair,

  at death. Our names? If-Only, and Too-Late.

Michael Spilberg

* * * * * * * * * * * *


There was Earth before man here.

Brooks brought life trickling clear down

Strong green backs of hills thrust out

Of virgin foam; and cliff and

Cape – nature’s ruptured wounds – healed

Sharp in the salted water.


Before warring waves – cast with

No way back – scratched, to sand and

Braqueish stacks, land’s sentinel

Granite sides… Before childish

Hands delved the silt of soft-sprung  

Beaches to bring up shells and

Glistening finds, and coves coughed

Out – through tunnelled lungs – their ribs

Of zinc and hopeful waste…; Earth


Had laboured hard here, blasted

Winds in two upon its tail

And through first mists unfurled – as

Jurassic stems and yawning

Leaves - clues of native treasure.

Juliet Mash

Juliet has provided a lovely selection of photographs to complement her poem.  These can be seen in the attached pdf.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


 A far cry from the place of my desire

Yes; but looking, seeing

Dawn light on the young willow, golden fire,

A sudden revelation glowing


Intent intently like Isaiah’s coals

Carried by angels. And the bleak place

Is illuminated: full of pools,

Wilderness water. irrigated space.

Jenifer Wates

* * * * * * * * * * * *


And people stayed home

and read books and listened

and rested and exercised

and made art and played

and learned new ways of being

and were still

and listened more deeply

someone meditated

someone prayed

someone danced

someone met their own shadow

and people started thinking differently----

And people healed...

And in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways

dangerous, mindless, and heartless....

The earth began to heal---

And when the danger ended

and people found themselves...

They grieved for the dead

and they made new choices

and dreamed of new visions

and created new ways to live

and heal the earth fully

just as they had been healed.

Submitted by Julia Johnson:  A friend sent me the above.  Unfortunately there is ambiguity over the author, originally given as Kathleen O'Meara).  In any event, it struck a chord in these troubled times and I wanted to share with you.

Julia Johnson,
16 Apr 2020, 04:16
Julia Johnson,
2 Apr 2020, 07:35