Wilderness | Mingled Space | V. 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
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: Live Reading:
'These Are the Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS'' (Fair Acre Press)
with Vanessa Redgrave, Miriam Margolyes & others.
9 December 2021
'Your Quarrel' by Margaret Adkins read by Celia Bannerman
Your Quarrel first published in Mingled Space | V. Press | 2019
also features in These Are The Hands | Fair Acre Press | 2020
Duddeston Viaduct 1930
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.
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)
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
had the baby been born.
Written in a National Writing Day Event at The Poetry Pharmacy 2019
Discovering artefacts from the old ironmongery.