Thursday 16 March 2023

Five Poems by Stephen Kingsnorth




Without my specs, I saw a cheese,

well-ripened, past its sell-by date,

hard cheddar mixed with herbal flakes,

goat gouda stuffed with fenugreek -

but study clarified the stitch

in plastic, not a leather seat.

That sets the age - assume not staged,

conglomerate, synthetic mulch,

but stratified, a grating rind,

absorbent tissue for the moss,

wherever dip or needle hole.

Unpromising to propagate,

like buddleia in bomb site crack,

yet here it is on moulded shape,

a host for green and creeping things.


Though saddle-sore, I don’t think staged -

it takes me back to Cambridge days,

drop handlebars - no sturmey gears -

just pedal power and lecture notes,

in woven basket strapped to rear,

and padlocked to a college rail

or thrown, if late, tutorial.

Indeed, here framed, it might be mine,

bike lost, occasion such as this,

poor time-keeping, that machine thrust

to ground for theft outside the school -

that session, thief in paradise;

the life expectancy of wheels

a resurrection bicycle,

in tandem, saprophytic style?





Why is the whitebeam popular?

Freefall leaf’s shyer underside,

beam glow of light from wispy wind,

a dappled stir to ensign white,

without alba poplar’s pretence.


Is this surrender to the breeze,

or subtle flexing as needs would,

trembling, shudder shiver twist,

the woods alive with faerie dust,

truncated Ariel’s escape?


Does shimmer shimmy by design,

alert to brighten cambium;

is auxin tempted, think again,

a little longer before fall?

Does death know resurrection comes?


But who could know or should they tell

of secret mycorrhiza texts,

that worldwide web of underground?

We hear screech screams of chainsaw blades,

but what is felled when ‘timber’ called?



Dance of Zalongo


We would they made a song and dance,

as told the children they would fly,

so all hands held as leapt up high,

with deep breath, plunged to valley death.


The tale retold is children pushed

before Mamas sang melody,

then one by one their suicide,

escaping Turkish pillage, worse.


But could community on hill,

throw their own blood, first sacrifice?

And would the women opt alone,

for who’s the first, remaining last?


It is the first that I believe,

counterintuitive revised,

not for the want, romantic veil,

but mothers, how protect their young.


The hell, gehenna, refuse tip,

the burning said, committed crime;

but this, theology of man -

but not Zalongo, angel wings.





Lichen to a north face trunk,

so similar to old man’s beard

in grizzled clumps curled about bole,

knee bowed,

gnarled knurl thrown prone in gales.

Lopped to side despite the bark,

rings bitten, chewed to oval shape.

through high flow low tight isobars,

as though new highlight paradigm.


I know that wizened moorland scrag,

two more on either side of tump,

a tumulus of ancient land;

the grouse where skylarks fear ascent,

where Sycorax trapped Ariel,

thin xylem as capillaries,

grey cambium,

cork overcoat.

A landing sight for sparrowhawk -

trail worthless spadgers brought to naught -

a gulp of magpies, every side,

for all the world, these mocking birds

with trifles snapped, Autolycus,

those shiny, silver coin bits.


This whisked, abused as whipping post,

where sleeting spears pierced between ribs,

as spokeshaves, floored by carpenter,

taut calloused derm drawn over bone,

the cage protecting growth in phloem.

Another tree that bore the weight

of all the world could throw at it -

though jessie bells rang over stump

where stooping,

preying wings found flight.



Trews Weir


What true, which spun embroidered myth?

I knew the weir, its timber trap.


Long float log boat from Exmoor down,

that salmon leap, where few flew by,

and pool beneath by Ducks Marsh green,

neither bog nor drake insight.


A minute from my teenage home,

past abbey cite to city route,

but twenty to Old Customs House,

where evasion sought out, caught.


The old match factory, dingly dell -

some causeway song, far Lindisfarne -

swans grace, vestas by the Exe

slats spaced out on ricket bridge.


Phosphor dip splash, workers’ curse,

hair, girls’ flaxen, dropout, space,

quaint plate hanging, rust screech hinge,

except name calling - mill for flax.


The ferry toll board, chain link quay,

Styx man gone when fee unpaid -

my first mucking, a bout in boats -

sandstone walls now garage lets.


Sun streak Sunday, cathedral bells,

wardrobe entries all the way,

in myth and memory, the mix,

through Trew was there, of that I’m sure.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including Lothlorien Poetry Journal.

He has been nominated, like so many, for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

His blog is at

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