Poems

  • 7 WEST PARK AVENUE

    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

    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

    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

    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