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Meadow with flares – a poem by Rodney Wood

MEADOW WITH FLARES

 

A cappuccino at the old coffee house,

Caffè Florian in St. Marks Square,

even if it’s extravagant but there are

three musicians playing light classical,

the kitchen is ten minute walk away,

the art and décor are an experience

and waiters are at peace and professional.

 

This past year it’s not been possible

to get away, unless you’re a celebrity,

so I’ve been pretending I’m on holiday

when really I’m walking to the end

of the garden to leave banana skins

and coffee grounds in the compost bin.

It’s cheap, I don’t need a passport

and no heavy suitcases to lug around.

 

With an easing of the rules it’s almost

a return to old times on the Great Western

seated with cell phones and masked bank robbers

passing new extensions, different clothes

on washing lines, air that carries a new sort

of promise and not mutations of the virus.

 

At Reading station I have a flat white,

walk over Christchurch Bridge to Caversham,

find a bench and eat a ham sandwich.

Swifts wheel over the rowing club roof,

a falcon sits like a Buddha on a sycamore

on the other bank, geese make some noise,

four young women put on jumpers and share

a picnic on a tartan cloth, some older

folk on collapsible chairs drink glasses

of wine, one man is under a banner that reads

‘World Record Sitting Attempt’, a girl passes

with black flares and a camera, while dogs

seem generally puzzled at all the action.

My almost Homeric journey over I join

my neighbours who have decided to meet

and share cups of coffee and conversation.

A radio plays ‘Do What You Can’ by Bon Jovi

while Shelly nods her red hair and explains

to me how in 2020 the song raised over

$6 million in a benefit for his home town.

Peter, from across the road, takes pictures

 

‘To remind me of the flesh and gold of life

because maybe I won’t get another chance.’

 

~

Rodney Wood currently lives in Farnborough. He worked in Reading in the ’70s, his son currently lives there and he is a regular attendee of the monthly open mics at South Street.

 

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Tasting blackberries – a poem from Carla Scarano D’Antonio

Tasting blackberries

‘The best ones grow in shadow’
Margaret Atwood, Blackberries

~

Cycling to Heather Farm
I see blackberries gleaming in the sun
black spots and red spots
among avid spines,
the biggest and ripest ones recede in the deepest undergrowth –
they will feed blackbirds and sparrows
or melt in the mud.

I have no plastic bag or bowl
so I gather them in my surgical face mask,
collect quite a few
gobble up some,
their wild taste bursts black under my fingers.
I feel satiated by the little sweetness,
treasure their blackness
that absorbs the late summer sun.

I make off with my bundle of pitch-dark garnets –
furtive as I go.
Back home I simmer them in a pan with lemon juice and sugar
seal the jam in jars
with the label Gratefulness.

~

Carla Scarano D’Antonio lives in Surrey with her family. She obtained her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in various magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020 by Dempsey & Windle. She completed her PhD degree on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading and graduated in April 2021. http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/ http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/

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Jacksons – a poem by Victoria Pugh

Jacksons

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.