DOUBTFUL LAND 2017 – A poetry pamphlet that didn’t get published



a seagull’s quill to write the marsh

a shell to listen for its tune

a pair of wings to fly far away


rushes to weave salty baskets

black clay to to build my boat

stones underwater to play music on


sea thrift to save memories

sea wormwood to heal with bitter brew

blue quicksilver for mind’s voyage


streams at low water to swim thoughts in

a high wide sky to tell true secrets to

curlews to sing my song






which bird’s feather?

blown up to the plum blue sky

faded now

this transparent morning

the bird is looking  the feather’s gone

the swan’s great feather from her wing

I found on the tideline

dirty white

could be the one lost feather I hold up

for the moon’s light


the swan lost it long ago  the fisherman

left his line to wind around her throat

and the lead to tangle in her gut

she floats in the water at the Southern Cross

under the Milky Way

all the stars on the sky’s gibbet

are feathers scattered like snow


the small fawn curled ones

with squared off ends dipped in chocolate

from the partridge’s breast  I keep in a cup

on my bookshelf   tiger stripe sparrow hawk

green metallic silk of rook

are in the slipware jar one shelf up


rain falls straight and heavy

in the street outside my open windows

the blackbird softly chucks and all the lost feathers of the world

like fish spines in the earth  lose their barbs and barbules

their keratin melts back into soil

rain runs down the grey glazed tiles

and extinguishes the stars




To the Headland


We crouch here in the ditch     slate smudge turns

to dark grey  comes quickly on

blue Lundy  dizzying cliff winged in storm haze

under the wall where the vision seems the brightest  or the darkest

if you fall from this height only the angels can catch you


become a bird  let go  fall in your mind  for joy

be the winged saint  the great feathered cherubim

terrify the people with your iron wings  you stand

open on the hillside  your rusty brow sees afar

the flicker of lightning  the storm’s arms are yours

this is your headland dream  it comes

fast again


if you are grounded you can walk

there into the murk  the final wakening

watch for the quickening it will not fail

in the wind  the hill will hold you up  the waves

stay below very small


feathers of gold  of bronze  of copper  shine

in the sun  beat slow like an eagle  you see

islands  harbours  coastlines clear to the western sea

there are tiny ships far away


you find them and you toss  hauling winch

on the trawler in grey hills of salt water

follow sheep on the hillside  drive kids to school

stack dirty plates  draw pints  slice onions

fill ovens  deliver the post  lay bricks

walk home again  wings furled




Four Fields


Field one  the Hangs 11.30 am 19th October


on the crest

green lines of winter wheat pricking through

shimmer of flints in the rain


jackdaws and rooks calling


showers gusting across


drilled lines swooping down to the hedge

the beech tree that grows away from the sea




Field two the Hangs 11.45 am 19th October


green ley with dark redpolls grazing

under moraine hills

heath brown with bracken


along the hedge all the seed heads nodding –

knapweed, cow parsley, hogweed –

looping brambles

bowing in the wind


grey sea very rough with white horses

breakers exploding behind the shingle ridge




Field three  Old Woman’s Lane

12.10 pm 19th October


eating blackberries


young rape plants

bisected by grassy track,

leading down to allotment huts


over all the electricity wires

moaning in the wind


round sun through cloud

wild hedge full of haws





Field four  Old Woman’s Lane

12.25 pm 19th October


running the hedge down

to white-flecked sea

lines of autumn barley following


a criss-cross of cats’ cradle wires

poles standing

puddled ruts  earth softened by rain


alexanders coming up

double-drilled drawing of green



old man’s beard in the hedge

an empty can

Rubicon Sparkling Mango




A Speculation of Hares   (Published in The Rialto no 84)


And the hare, because he chews the cud but does not divide the hoof, he is unclean to you. (Leviticus 11:6)


the hare’s ears are like gloved fingers gesturing/they beckon

like chestnut leaves  black-tipped  furry/listen to her huge heart

flippy  arrogant   tall   magical   sensitive/at the vernal equinox

as long as a blade of summer grass/being embodied   alive

a stalk of wheat  a sheaf of hay/persisting in being


she crouches in the headland/on the edge between wood and field

her path is made   it is customary/under the sky’s roof

she makes her practised escape/she’ll eat the little saplings and the beet seedlings

returns to her home ground/she’s a feast for gentry folk

her name is forbidden amongst fishermen/she is delicious with onions


she is a night creature and signifies a full moon/the one who makes you shudder

she is not a native   she has cunning/she doesn’t go straight home

can see behind her   knows how fast to run/the one it’s bad luck to meet

she hides her children in plain sight/she takes refuge with the lambs

her form in the open ground/meet her in the evening and you will meet a queen







Doubtful Land  (a version of this published in The Rialto no 84)


susceptible to flood      interchangeable      terminal






grey rippled reed reflections

in the sky’s eye  satin blue to dark blue-grey

the church tower appears

over Arnold’s marsh


SALTY          FRESH




saline crescent pools reflecting

the day sky  now pure deep blue

some cirrus building on the west wind

tufts of grey down break away and fly towards me


sluices       scoured away






a new lower ridge pushed up

shadow line the low south sun

casts along the bank

on the seaward side


line of the horizon       flat cloud above it






above and below the lines and banks

the sea a moving surface of little hillocks

froth and translucence   tiny wavelets turning over

the repeated lines    a line of seaweed further up


wind farm horizon        shingle ridge






machines of the air

their enormous sound in the echoing blue

pressing down


crawling along the slipping stones

exposed to this piercing light

that points to Bakeney’s spit   to Weybourne’s cliff




on the causeway

sea of reed beds        North sea





Lark at Salthouse October 2016


his singing ticks him up to the top of the airy place

the apex

flung to catch the sea

the church

the heath

the hill


pumps out his triumphant threat all he sees and sings of and claims

as his own  the stripes of field the tractor and the trees of Walsey Hills

the bracken and the gorse the weeds the barley stubble   sings

of the dark cloud the falling rain out to sea the white blades turning

his air  his cloud  his sun  he climbs high  for sustenance  for light

for home

spread beneath him

the insects

the nesting places

the open land

he rules it


continues like the land he is part of it his song twisting and thrumming in his

throat he keeps it turning  keeps the seasons coming   in the wind’s pocket

at the top of the hill he has the connection he’s the revenant the constant angel

the presence of a god




The Woodwife    (published in Strix, Leeds, no 1)

Scolopax rusticana (woodcock)


The woodwife’s duties are:

to probe the undercurrents of her life/to feel under the leaf mould with her long beak

to keep her high round eyes open for the strange and the uncanny/to keep low and look out above

to know her eggs and to hatch them/to hear the egg-teeth breaking out

to let her children tell her secrets/to be a cloud in the night

to show the most love/to escape the guns and dogs, the fox and the badger

to shine a bright moon lamp on the numinous/to row the dark with her wings

to be an indistinct radiance from inside the wood/to let her knowledge sink under the trees





Quantum Properties of Pink-Foot Geese (published in The Rialto no 84)


Anser brachyrhynchus


Do the geese still call, that used to fill the sky/the strongest bird first

do their lines still wander, and spill the wind to land/the most experienced second

as when I was woman live?/families separate elements in the greater skein



under the horizon, downwind they spire/first I hear their honking clarinets

deep keeled wing-strong from Iceland/like little arial dogs yap yap squeak squeak

darkest clouds turn into dotted geese lacing up the sky/tumbling into the beet field



goosey-goosey gander/cryptochrome in their eyes makes the earth’s magnetic field visible

father, mother, brother, sister goose/discoursing the course, making new connections

he goosed her, little goose/to change course requires many voices, mid-air decisions



whose beak will pierce the wind?/electrons’ radical pairing, wings oscillate

whither will you wander?/constant readjustment of leadership

vee’d across the weather/quantum entangled, plump flocking streaming slipstream.




The Woodcutter’s Daughter



a world of thorns

the air filled with water


out of the leaf mould and the fallen


the rain dropping from the tree

a small disturbance in the nettles

a bramble leaf flips

as if some small bird had just that second flown


or an insect




each oak tree pregnant with story

in the corrugations of bark


high branches like arms


holding up the wet sky

lime trees with skirts  like queens

a single yellow leaf

helicopters down





a green bleed of algae flows

from the forked oak’s crotch


you can never see


his face   only the axe

he knows the way through the brambles and nettles

the damp pits and the drainage hollows

the swampy ponds


they are long gone




crusted aftermath

veined green tributaries


in denser darker places


he comes to the tree he marked

last time   it has regrowth around the wound

a wood of sweet chestnuts

the spring of a falling drop


the she-wolf dreams





seventy seven steps   (published in Tears in the Fence no 66)


in memory of my mother and of my classics teacher I. M. S. who walked into the sea at Walcott in 1976




ten steps between/blackcap warbles and fizzes

counting seventy seven times/cow parsley white drops of rain

to arrive/grassy ride to small meadow

at the Gates of Hades/tender oak twig falls

under hollies sharp dark/powerful scent

snaking bark-less necks /large partially dead oak

the ancient guardian remains/translucent oak leaves

my sybil Julian’s Divine Love/chiffchaff’s song

in the knapsack at my back/nettles  docks  wren sings

no drums  brass  choir behind me/oak tassel flower

descending to the broken gate/hawthorns   old hedge

rusty iron-work sagging/stitchwort white stars

beyond  the portal yawns/ivy on oak trunk

small bats fly past me/ancient oak log sinking

cobwebs spread across/tall oak its feet in bluebells

spiders and dust in my hair/willow warbler imitating chiffchaff

hand on wall I walk down/goose-grass  yaffle calls

stone steps wet/brown patterned slug at my feet

and riven/patter of drops blown off leaves above

faint light from below/burr-oak thickened trunk

I hold a branch of may/meadow saxifrage

to cross this river Lethe/sea of bramble shoots

not water but song/bluebells thick under oak

intertwines time  sound  dark matter/pheasant alarm

invisible choir/dead branch almost buried

from a new dimension/





a boat made of reeds that whisper/large oaks one dead

I step in  no ferryman/branches tangle

pulls me along with gentle sway/new leaves shine

all song dies away and the reed-bed/raindrops

summons me bowing/dandelion flowers

her tall watery form rises/in the open

she speaks Virgil’s latin words /two bluebells

as at school when I was young/new bracken fronds

of Aeneas and his father Anchises/large oak tree

the golden bough/black white trunks silver birch grove

with melodious singing voice/lark above

more inspiring than she ever knew/roebuck

the wound is open and peopled now/scots pine

they come to greet me/low branching oak

dimly seen at first/brambles  bracken thicket

soon/silver birch arm in arm with honeysuckle

my mother finds me/may tree a plume of leaves

eyes alight with love /rain encrusted sheet of bluebells

woken from that twilight/hawthorn tree’s tall dome

my hands find no purchase/scent of bluebells

our voices join/grass stamens on filaments

we spend a day and night/jackdaw chuck call

talking laughing renewing/scots pine whiskered tufts

this side of time/nettles in grass chiffchaff sings

there are old friends here women/molehills  dock plants

who helped me/ride of blue leading into the wood

become myself/





my grandmothers/chiffchaff wavy flight across

all the dear figures/curly-headed oak tree

of childhood and youth/hedge/edge/brambles

one gallops bareback/black caps singing

those writers I read/bugle faded violet in the grass

and tried to emulate/bracken fronds unfurling

behind them ancestors/mop-headed hawthorn

trailing crowds/dead oak with flowering hawthorn

all the women who/tall brackens branching

fought for suffrage and our rights/wild strawberry flowers

raised their daughters to be/may tree dot buds

what they should be and more/path through bracken

scientists  writers   doctors/ivy crowded trees

artists  makers  linguists/hollies further in

mothers – and now my time is ended/dog rose climbs

I leave/pale green views through pattern of branches

honoured amid sad farewells/foxglove young leaves

turn away in tears/bank of dead bracken

to find myself again/garden warbler sings

leaden feet/young rowan struggling through hawthorn

take me/chimes of heavy machinery backing

find ten steps  ten lines/blackbird in the distance

climb stairs to the light/hollies at Hades’ Gate

through the horizon of life/rain  sky bears down





 “Iaque ubi tendentem adversum per gramina vidit

Aenean, alacris palmas ultrasque tetendit:

effusaeque genis lacrimae”

(his father) when Aeneas on the plain appears

meets him with open arms, and falling tears

from Virgil’s Aenead book six