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Wilderness | Mingled SpaceV. Press | 2019

On 16th October 2017

the sky turned orange.

James, homeless in 

Birmingham talked to me 

about doorways and his

aversion to beds.

This video poem

is dedicated to James, wherever he is...




Imagining a Changed Place



If it’s me that ends up alone

at our breakfast table 


I’ll still eat an apple, slowly baked

the night before, with honeyed


nuts in yogurt. I’ll focus on the wren

outside finding tiny fragrant 


spiders, tucked up in rosemary  

blooms – and when she sings, I’ll watch


her nebule of breath 



I will set your chair 

far enough back – for you to fill it.  

First published in Atrium 2017

Hare & Clown | Margaret Adkins Writing






His gardening cleats punctured

            her left knee when she stumbled 

at his feet in a sack race. 

            There was talk of tetanus.


In the holidays she pretended to be his nurse.

            She made sandwiches 

when he’d just eaten. In case he had forgotten

            his pills, she hid two in the filling. 


Again, she would ask to see the butterflies 

             mounted and labelled 

in a tallboy of shallow glass drawers—

            bright as jelly.


The puncture healed to a dimple 

            that flattened when she used to hitch

up her uniform and place her knee

            on the counterpane







in unison with a nurse opposite

            then hook the patient’s wing

and press down through her thigh  

            to haul the dead weight up the bed 


and flattened when she used to kneel 

            between a woman’s parted legs 

one hand poised 

            one feeling for the cord 


for the pulsing

            while watching for shoulders

to rotate as she waited 

            for the next contraction.


Now the dimple is less visible.

            When she is sleepless the butterflies return—

iridescent bodies coded

            and speared through each squeezed thorax.

First published in Ink, Sweat & Tears (2021)


Sands Films Studio Event

 'These Are the Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS'' (Fair Acre Press)

Live readings of poems with Vanessa Redgrave, Miriam Margolyes & others.

9 December 2021

'Your Quarrel' by Margaret Adkins read by Celia Bannerman

Your Quarrelread by Margaret Adkins
00:00 / 01:32

Your Quarrel  first published in Mingled Space | V. Press | 2019

    also features in These Are The Hands |  Fair Acre Press | 2020






Duddeston Viaduct 1930


   For Paul



After the first brick, ten were laid in Upper Trinity Street

One hundred after ten, a thousand after a hundred,

a hundred thousand after a thousand

until millions stacked up, curving in layers:

the blue-legged python thrust forward through Deritend,

siphoning light out of the back-to-backs

wedged in the squeeze. When wet with rain

the wall of louring blue brick

looks like a snake skinned

to leather something big - like God's mackintosh

but the boy under the arches, sniggering

with Leah and the others, ignoring the smell

of lingering cow, doesn't think like that.

Under the old bridge Leslie Adkins

retells the tale of a neighbour-mother

pulling him out of petrification

and through her shadow-spanked door:

out of the course of a thousand thundering

hooves of cattle, escaped from the loading station

at the top of their road.

One day under the arches, his son

will stand looking at buddleia rooted 

in a high, sunless spot that his late father

could surely reach back then with scraped knees

and a great leap after pushing off from the other side.

He will see the bricks and imagine the boy.

He will see the bricks and feel caught in a tintype

watching muscle fired like clay flexing a chain

to lift hod after hod; lay line after blue line

with hands tanned to scabbards.

Under the arches he will remember his father.

First published in This Is Not Your Final Form [Emma Press 2017]

An anthology of poems about Birmingham chosen from entries

for the inaugural Verve Festival competition.

Your Quarrel






Will you ever blow up a paper bag

like you did when all the lemon sherbets were gone

and the roof of your mouth was pebble-dashed,

for no other reason than to hear the pop?

I will and I won't. I will if I can

still river down the stairs on my stomach

sucking butterscotch, juddering over the ridges.

I won't if I can't find a paper bag.


First version published in Prole 2019





A Fairy Tale                                                               

Once upon a time the enchanted 

lived inside long-stay-hospital-homes

until one-day, wards of ritual and patterns 

repeating were stopped and the patients 

were written into a different fairy tale 


still ink-wet. A grey-suited giant told Janet 

that a new life was waiting far away,

in a dolls house for rodents and dossers:

a place filled with all she needed 

except light. Opposite, the tower block 


blocked the sun, so every morning 

she pocketed her scarlet lipstick

and half-toothed comb, carried her new

collapsible mirror and walked, avoiding

the cracks to the Co-Op where the manager 


chose not to watch. There, she sided tubs 

of butter chilling in rows and propped 

her mirror in the gap she had made.

Under a slick of fluorescence

she would bleed lipstick and a blemish


in case a Prince should arrive for a kiss

and she combed her ivory hair. 

When her reflection no longer baffled

she packed up her things and returned

to the place she was told was home.  

First published in Under the Radar Issue 23 (Spring 2019)





Never Bought 



The worm that hauls itself

through mattresses of wood

has chewed through the rattle. 

Not all of it – just

the soft lozenged ends.


Thin rods caging the bells

are still pristine


for fingers to clutch and drop.


The worm leaves a tracery

of capsule-shaped gullies

and fine-as-smoke frass

where gums could

have gnawed

had the baby been born.

Written in a National Writing Day Event at The Poetry Pharmacy 2019

Discovering artefacts from the old ironmongery.

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