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page at last update, 23rd Feb 2012


Helen Burke (        - 2019)


Drawing Dogs               Children’s Games

         Foxglove           The Apple House


Drawing Dogs


I have taken to drawing dogs.

They have begun to seem more like people than people.

I feel more certain that they will

Inherit the earth.

I feel safer when a dog snarls

Than when a person smiles.

I can see them deciding not to think of all the answers

Before they’ve eaten their dinner.

I can see they’re not bothered if the post is late  or if

They miss the bus to Fulham Broadway.

Their faces do not pose when you look at them.

(And then try and pretend that they’ve just seen you.)

If they’re happy, they’re happy – and sad if they’re sad.

If they got begging letters – they would answer all of them.

In their heads, all of them are riding motorbikes across France

Without a cur in the world.  

And most brilliantly of all – they do not write poetry.

I like dogs. 


H Burke

published in collection, The Ruby Slippers, 2011, Valley Press



Children's Games


Just like that with

half a coconut from the fair.

and you had to swallow it or

wallop a cat with a dead dogs bollocks.

And then, and then, run past a mad nun  and

Jimmy the tramp and make it down to the

railway-lines and leave your head on the line


Someone with ginger hair goes past and shouts

“Hey Mad Mickey— get yourself home,

your tea’s on’t table.”  And,

unless your mam’s dead in which case it’s allright —

you have to lock your best friend in the toilet and

never ever let them out.  But, when you do, ONLY do it

when everyone else thinks they’re dead.

But, if you’re really shit-scared, AND

the cops come looking —

only own up to the coconut.


(But, that’s it, right ? )


H Burke

prize-winner, Yorkshire Open Poetry Competition, 2006






Foxgloves are a wild flower.

I sleep on a bed of them.

I eat foxglove, dream foxglove.

I am foxglove.


Smooth, purple, pockets of foxglove

fill up my eyes.  New blood

grows from my nails, washes itself

into my hair.

Foxglove, foxglove.

The colour is insistent.  It is

my new colour.

With the colour I am become strong.  Tall.

It is the colour I am fit for.


The foxglove is neither

fox nor glove but keeps itself, in all,

under wraps, part by painted part.

The colour is as I would wish,

I do not fear them.


I keep some foxgloves in my secret cupboard.

They are as innocent as snow, sweet purple snow,

they can put a spell on you.

But do not fear them... they show you a simple face.


Beyond their face, they cup a wildness

to themselves.


Some turn their faces to the bold sky

and from it take new heart.

Upon you, upon them I shall cast a spell of welcome.

I live.  I breathe.  I can deny them nothing.

I am foxglove.


H Burke

Prize-winner, Norwich Poetry Competition, 1996




The Apple House


The bones of the old house

Stand on an orchard.  So.

The bones and blood of my house

are apples.  Whole juicy crinolines of them.

Here the trees are laden, are ladies with ruby fans

pulpy with apple segments.  Their fans speak

the language of apples.

I speak the language of trees, of apples.


I myself, though you cannot see it, am apple.

My fingertips are apple-pips.

My blood runs clean as cider blood.

In the night the bricks rustle

like the soft leaves of russets nestled at dawn

as they protect the ground from itself.

The earth has a way of answering fruit.

It is the swing of a pendulum as time itself

becomes edible.

Over my dreams birds fly, call to me,

“You are not alone.  Let the tree that loves you ripen.”


The birds protect the apple shell

of my head on the pillow.

Our eyes watch the leaning towers of trees

sway in the wind, the long branches

of people’s dreams —

the green skin of them unpeeling,

unravelling behind their swollen eyes.

We are turning, turning into

the red pulse of our selves as we wake.

Our teeth close on the creamy, unbitten day.


We are falling. Fallen.

Our throats swollen with Autumn.

The years pour through our bodies

like cool, silk green water.

Our bodies that are sinking, that are

the crumpling of flesh.  Only that.

I am wearing my dream skin now, do you see???


Like the centre of fruit we have dreamed ourselves.

Like the centre of fruit, we are ticking flesh.

We are the perfumed opal cores of apples.

Within me the apples that are golden hang —

my apple soul, at last comes home.


H Burke

Commended Prize-winner, Yorkshire Open Poetry Competition, 2003


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