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last update: 4 Jul18

 

 

Spellbinding for bike                      Bugloss

 

Nocturne                      Fall

 

Spellbinding for bike

Pluck a shoot of what grows fast
and fragile, weave it through the spokes –
scarlet runner, mile-a-minute.
Lick your finger, bless the brakes
so they grip firm but not too tight
when lights turn red on downward slopes
lest potholes, ruts, betray your wheels
on black ice, white ice, frozen snow.
 
Turn the back wheel widdershins
before you mount, burnish the bell
and ring it when you pass a church
or petrol station. Let the smell
of diesel serve as musk to mark
the beast, its metal jaws that chewed,
unravelled those who once were strong
and confident, as fast as you.
 
They now ride ghost bikes, painted white,
hung with funeral wreaths, and rags
of faded ribbons, photographs
and weeping notes in plastic bags.
May the gods grant you don’t mistake
lycra for armour, or think that luck’s
forefinger, crooked, guides your path.
It beckons to the cars. The trucks.
 

Jan Bay-Petersen

shortlisted for The Plough Prize, 2013;
published in The Rialto 82, Winter 2015


 
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Bugloss

It grows on sandy chalk, where grass
is meagre, burnt brown in summer.
If you fossick among the prickly ox-tongue
leaves, you will leave beads of blood.
If you dig down through its strong, dry roots
deeper than any dog ever dug
you will come to the end of the soil
before you come to the end of bugloss roots.
 
Don’t be fooled by the flowers.
Soil in bugloss country is rich in seeds.
By the time you see the first small leaf
the root is longer than your foot.
Gardens neglected for a month
convert, fervently, to bugloss.
Colonies flourish in newfound lands
behind bus shelters and bins.
 
Sometimes a hiss of herbicide
announces Council workmen with their sprayers.
Within two days the plants are withered, fuse
into a dark brown crust. It doesn’t feel like triumph.
It feels like a lost war, our soil spread with salt.
We know that under the dead leaves
the roots are clenching their fingers
deeper in the chalk; honing survival skills
already older, more resilient than ours.
 

Jan Bay-Petersen

published in The North 50, 2013;
commended in the Second Light poetry competition, 2015
and published in ARTEMISpoetry 15, November 2015


 
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Nocturne

She hears a blackbird whistling to the spring
still three months away. The notes rebound
off ice, boughs are bare, grubs deep underground.
Fragile automata, the other birds begin to sing.
Black night, no eastern silhouette of dawn,
yet still the blackbird calls, willing the world
to warm, urging torpid birds to mate and build
their nests too early, breed oblivion.
 
The man who sleeps beside her moves through dreams
where she’s a stranger: behind closed doors she senses
the murmur of his phone calls, and he seems
preoccupied, smells different: musky, sweet.
The cruellest lies are sometimes told in silence.
The birdsong swells like surf. She tries to sleep.
 

Jan Bay-Petersen

published in The Interpreter’s House 50, 2012


 
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Fall

Oaks hold their colour till the limes are bare.
Our words lose shape, like raindrops on a stone.
We hear the slack feet fumbling on the stair.
 
We misremember poets who once sang here
then quietly left to face the night alone.
Oaks hold their colour till the limes are bare.
 
Age is another country, alien, where
we live without a passport, skulk at home,
hearing the slack feet fumble on the stair.
 
There is a kind of rest in it, aware
we only lease what once we thought to own.
Oaks hold their colour till the limes are bare.
 
Sleep’s a mirage that fades as we draw near,
night featureless, the dawn in monochrome,
hearing the slack feet fumbling on the stair.
 
Once, years accrued like pearls; now we must bear
their compound weight, like necklaces of stone.
Oaks hold their colour till the limes are bare.
I hear the slack feet fumble on the stair.
 

Jan Bay-Petersen

published in ARTEMISpoetry 7, November 2011


 
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