Archives: Poems

7 WEST PARK AVENUE

The house is a bell, is a shell snapped shut
is a box with a lid and the lid locked up

is a pocket, is a pouch with the cord pulled tight
is a well with steps treading down from the light.

The house is a whisper, a shrug on the street
the placing on floorboards of soft-slippered feet

is a hole, a cellar, a bookcase on a hinge
is the view from an attic
– daylight of seagulls –
is salt in the wind.

The house is a puzzle, a trick or a chance
movement at a window, the risk of a glance.

The house is a pebble, a ripple on water.
When you walk by, it is stucco, bricks, mortar.


Note: From November 1943 until May 1945, Dorothea Weber nee Le Brocq, hid Jewish Woman Hedwig Bercu in her house at 7 West Park Avenue, St Helier, Jersey. Both women survived the war. Dorothea was posthumously awarded the honour of ‘Righteous Among Nations’ by Yad Vashem in 2016 and was made a British Hero of the Holocaust in 2018. The ceremony was attended by descendants of both women.

FOREIGN WORKER

Atlantic Wall, St Ouen’s Bay, Jersey
After Günter Eich

This is his cap
made from a sack.

This is his shirt,
a blanket.

This is his belt,
clothes-hanger wire.

This is his coat,
a girl’s jacket.

These are his shoes,
bags tied with string.

This is his skin,
stiff with cement

and swollen over the bones
of his tumbling face.

These are his eyes.
Meet them.


Note: As in other occupied countries, the Organisation Todt was in charge of slave and forced labour camps in the Channel Islands. Sixteen thousand men were brought to the islands to build fortifications which were part of the Atlantic Wall. Workers were conscripted from across Europe and Russia, and included Spanish Republicans, North Africans, Poles, Czechs, and men, women and children from Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union.

A SEA FOG

delicate and tasty
tunnels through the lanes,
resting in the hedges
on the elms’ tight branches
filling up the fields.

A full, articulate fog –
droplets formed around
a nucleus of salt.

Out of this pink hover
a child pedals down the lane
on hose-pipe tyres,
a forbidden news-sheet
in a pouch under her blouse,
an empty bottle in her basket.

Three times a week her parents
shush her off to Mrs Clegg’s.
Milk for news. News for milk.

The bike is cumbersome
but on the way home
there are trinkets to find
in the half-hidden hedges,
the crumbling mud banks

and she whispers their shapes to me
now with her stiff wrinkled fingers:
pennywort, shale rock,
a play ball of moss.

GERS EY

Geirr’s Island –

Norse man, naming this land his own.
From L’Etacq to Le Hocq the coastline
is a fan, a flame of brandished rock
doubling at low tide.  Each rock named –
etchièrviéthe, marmotchiéthe, sablionniéthe
the language of rock prodding and poking
the coast over time – from Ick Hoc
to Hygge Hogge, to Hic Hoc, to Icho Isle
with an imprint of witch.

In sun the rocks graze brown to pink
to souothè. Encircled by the sea’s salt suck
they hunch and fret like something spilt, burnt
and set. There are eyes in the rock
where sea can pass. Souachehouais
in the rock where sea can swash.

From north to south the island
is a wedge, tapering out
to little coves and open dunes,
sea spray, spindrift, sand-glitter, gloss,
down to the harbour with its scoucherels,
its reek of shell and flesh and salt,
down to the busy granite town,
people going about their day,
pebbles rolling on the tide.


etchièrviéthe rock frequented by cormorants; marmotchiéthe murmuring rock; sablionniéthe sandy rock; souothè yellowish brown, sorel-coloured; souachehouais swashway; scoucherel skulking place