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Jacksons – a poem by Victoria Pugh


So many hat boxes, stacked on the shelves by the door;
full of flat caps, trilbies, bowlers, top hats – or nothing?
Terraces of wooden trays beneath a glass counter;
striped ties, driving gloves, grey socks, lying sideways.

Behind the counter, rows of closed compartments,
goods to be viewed, only on request; each vest or shirt
taken one at a time, unfolded, viewed, folded away.
Asking to be shown anything is an act of bravery.

I ask you. You take your life from the nearest drawer
and lay it out with its perfect stitching, brown edging,
leather buttons; its Harris tweed, fully-lined in fawn.
This is not what I asked for. Look in the deepest drawer.

Let me see what you showed me once, rough blanket
stitches on fraying borders, the red twisted satin cord
that coils around inside you; your fine gold embroidery,
the watered silk lining you made from your tears.

The hat boxes, those cabinets and containers remain
unopened, and then there’s the stockroom, at the back
of the shop, or maybe in the attic, full of things that have
never seen the light of day. But Jacksons is closed now.


This poem was originally published (in a slightly different form) on a local blog called The Whitley Pump.

Victoria Pugh has lived in Reading for over thirty years and taught at Reading College. Her collection of poetry, Mrs Marvellous, was published by Two Rivers Press in 2008.

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Night Driving – a poem by Kim Whysall-Hammond

Night Driving

Night, made yellow by
sodium lights arrayed at road edge
car headlights picking out trees
hedges, pedestrians
all the houses spread on Reading’s skirts.
Sitting at the back, seatbeltless
I would stare into windows as we passed
peer at other lives being lived
as if through a series
of sequential flash-dramas
enacted in deep silence.
Wonder at their variety
ache to be part of them.

Kim Whysall-Hammond


Kim Whysall-Hammond has worked in Climate Research and then in Telecommunications. Her poetry has been published by Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Alchemy Spoon, Total Eclipse, London Grip, Crannóg and others. She is currently working on that difficult first chapbook – when she isn’t dancing to Billy Nomates.

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Better Messages in Analogue – a poem from Alex Saynor

Better Messages in Analogue

Streams of dissatisfaction, a tremor in the hand.
The torpor of Emmbrook’s electric blue
summer water under intermittent arbours
winding through empty industrial land
is the solace under leaden footfalls
with a siskin moving from shade to shade,
a jay on the path by unkempt verges,
while on the other side of the field
a major traffic artery could be, of course,
white noise of the sea if you close your eyes
hoping lungs will open up against the odds
their better messages in analogue
against the virtual, but as you walk
across the reeds a beige structure
upholds the rush, a contraflow above
incongruities of soft play and sculpted paths.

Alex Saynor studied English Literature at UEA. He lives in Wokingham, and is Head of English at a local secondary school. He has previously had poems published by Stroud Football Poets.

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‘Skippers’ and ‘Time and Tide’ – two poems from Karen Izod

My grandfather George Powell was the skipper of the Thames tug-boat Pep, and his brother Arthur skippered Vim, both out of Beckett’s Wharf at Hampton Wick. These photos have recently emerged from our family albums; Vim is photographed by Eric Guy and H.J.Milligan, while the photograph of the two brothers is unattributed. Guy’s extensive photography collection is held at The Museum of Rural Life at University of Reading, though these photos aren’t amongst them. – Karen Izod

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I remember their necks
under those caps;

deep runnels, seasoned
in the ways of navigation,

and brown as a clover
baccy, which they took

to rolling in their youth,
and which has their attention

coming out from High Bridge
on an empty haul, the water

narrowing from its blind bend,
and nothing they couldn’t
know, nor tell, between them.


This poem is in memory of my grandfather George, and grandmother Marion. During WW2 he would take barges of timber from Kingston to Greenwich and occasionally take longer trips out the Thames Estuary and round to Harwich.

Time and Tide

Oh Valiant Tug,

you, who always pull more than your weight,
you, who know the tides, the currents,
the rivery dankness;

so humble, so low in the water,
the prows of your barges tower
Huge and Menacing in your wake,

while the sun, striking them gold
on the estuary’s silver flow, signals plain
as radar to the bombers overhead.

And bravest Mrs P, out just for the love
of the day, for the smell of the diesel,
the joy of the waves,

and who prides herself on her fully-fashioned
stockings, is kneeling on the caulk down below.
Oh God, not here, not now!

And though her knees are torn through
from the fear, Mercy is riding with them that day
like a skipper’s mate,

and just for that while
Time and Tide are waiting.


Karen Izod lives in Guildford, Surrey, on the edge of the North Downs. Since lock-down she has been attending Poets’ Cafe, Reading, alongside other regular Open-Mic events: Write out Loud and 1000 Monkeys. Karen’s writing explores places: thin places, city spaces, people, politics, attachment and memory and she is published in a number of magazines and anthologies including Agenda, The High Window, The Interpreter’s House and Stanley Spencer Poems: An Anthology. Karen works as an academic in the NHS. Her maternal grandparents came from Braunston and Hawkesbury on the Grand Union and Oxford Canals where their families owned and worked a small fleet of canal boats, moving south to the Thames in the 1920s.