I know they ashed my flesh, milled my bones,

sealed the flour of my body in a casket,

and buried it out of sight on the north side

of the churchyard, to be half sunk flotsam,

caught in a wave of tombstone buoys whose tip

and sway through the calm between tempests,

cannot be measured by those who disposed me

to memory.


I know it was October. I was ashed but still here.

On a moonlit night I crawled out

feeling damp turf against toes, knees and palms

that I no longer owned. I sensed without discomfort,

a chill washing over skin no longer worn.

Tongueless, I tasted the air, the turn of leaves

about to drop.


I know I was not alone. Others came out of the earth,

looked skyward. There was light, birdsong, voices.

One brushed dirt from clothes with fingers

long since whispered to dust.

Here stood the assured and the confused, leaning

on lichen-crusted markers of their mortal lives.


I know one had his old moon face buried into folded arms.

Others, dressed in the way of their day, greeted

like old pals across the gap; a spark

between their eternal bed and the next.

Many, like me were naked.

Perhaps we were the burned ones;

alternative members of the same occasional club.


I know a young man in a white collarless shirt,

reached out a hand that was once his own.

His other pointed to stone-carved words;

Charlie, who fell asleep in nineteen nineteen,

in his seventeenth year. He blinked, not at my nakedness.

We didn’t care. And I know in a far away voice

he said, I believe this is your first?


3rd Prize in the 2018 Bridport Prize




Two Girls and a Beehive

after ‘Two Girls and a Beehive’, 1910

He has these butcher’s daughters

(both ginger-haired as honeycomb and sunset),

smelling roses, just that, as if oblivious

to the hovering of the holy ghost behind

and that box of whispering bees.


He loved them both, those Wooster girls,

dressed them in shades of privet green,

gave them an evening glow and posed them

on puddles of light; the last gold lily-pads

of the day.

                   At times they would sit, Dot

and Emmie, on his garden wall, chatter

and giggle, backs against black railings,

and hedge of that same viridian hue.


Perhaps he felt himself to be

supernatural, as he watched

from the nursery window, thinking,

I can look and linger on you my two loves,

but you cannot see me.


But what of the bees, the honey-makers

in their Mill Lane hive? He paints them at rest,

contained, still as evening, a potential

for both sweetness and pain.

Just that.




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