Poetry Drawer: Five Poems by Jenny Middleton


we row, hearing only our oars
pluck the sigh of ripples free
from the lake’s swish of midnight

and silence, lifting water to sudden
cold light, cutting and breaking at the damp
float of moss that clings to the cold

wooden skin of our craft
the stir of sand and silt scurries
beneath us as we pull on,

heavy with grief, our backs turned
from the shore and its familiar
round, worn stones, moving

onwards and away, towards
the tangle of the nearing tree strutted
embankment, its branches open

and different with day.

Sleep- Some Scenarios

  1. Absence.

From the beginning you wept, tossing
and un-soothed, suckling milk
to an exhaustion that gaped
from a hungry, red mouth.

We paced and sang rhyming reels,
running and running their rhythms
amongst the thinning air,
heated by your wails.

Then wings, gentle and absolute
with downy sleep
would brush us and rock us
from such barrenness.

  1. Accidental.

Sofas sag with TV induced stupor
and beer bottles brag of an evening lounge,
gathering in glazed emptiness
on the coffee tables while you sleep,
fully clothed, as the drone of day
spirals fitfully to insubstantial rest.

Later you will jolt awake,
bleary, shirt astray and stumble
against the furniture of the world
stripped to 2AM; stark
with the inconsequence of failure.

  1. Induced.

Sleep arrives in the form of opaline tablets
marooned on a sanitised, metal tray,
each pill an island thudding with escape.

They slip between your waxy lips
and soon breath is a stringy rattle
clambering to the air, while dreams lurch
un-fettered beneath your eye-lids,

unwrapping the last of the world
amongst the dim lights of a hospice ward.

On Worthing Beach

Smooth shingle, rounded by sea,
slides and sinks as we walk,
unevenly as the tide
does in its blinking and glistening
suck at the shore, lapping
us in our race to print the sands.
Its salty rush at us, cool even
in summertime.

The wind full of bluster
and smudges of faraway
fairground jangles
haunts our walk,
intercepting our words
with its stolen sounds.

So even as you push your fingers
against the crevices of my palm
and pull me to you,
we feel the persistence of centuries
echo within the town, the tide
and the gulls’ clasp of the paling sky
ring at us.
Our footsteps vanishing already
to the hold of the land.

Saturday Evening – Suburbia

The trees here are suburban stooges,
the stand-ins for a woodland,
growing in the dim expanse
of a backyard,
their shared vision grown to leaves
and translated, in mob, to the breeze,
their whispered drool in stereo
with the screech
of hand break spins
that greet this neighbourhood
from the supermarket car-park,
where, on evenings like these
its empty space is loot – for some-
to race with; to fill the trivia
of time with
and escapist fumes elude
the labour of trees.
Oxygen and air a cloak
as scarce as day.

I Realised When I Heard Him Play

that instead of talking he was glossing
life to a pop song’s day,
fizzy with vacancy.

While his violin sung of a river;
long notes following long notes
in ripples pushed to air
from the eddy and flurry of water
circling in the dank murk of the weir.

His bow’s strong strokes
alive with sorrow swung
from beneath the current’s keening push
of minnows swum to minim beats
then to semibreves

while his fingers leapt between
fine, taut strings coaxing
music from hollow mahogany
to sing the sadness
of the sentences unsaid.

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.  You can read more of her poems at her website.  

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