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Beside the Wharfe               In that day

         Sunday Morning           The bedroom


Beside the Wharfe


Sometimes a river seems to listen,

brown water, curled white feathers, a yellow leaf

turning and resting, as from time to time

something catches;


your voice running round person after person, their parents, life history,

my fingers turning over dead leaves, feeling how leathery they are,

how easily I can tear them apart

till I flash out at the next thing you say


and then a long pause

while we watch foam eddy under a sycamore

and detach itself, as if a counsellor

has slipped out of the room and left us together.


Jean Harrison

published in Shape Sifting,  Cinnamon Press,  2007




In that day


there’ll be a house in red sandstone

among green hills

just gently

beginning to heave and stretch.


Early morning, someone will have lit a fire,

smoke will puff a wavering speech bubble

across wobbling dry-stone walls,

mist will blur the valleys.


At this moment a man and three women

will be walking down a dim corridor

towards a chapel

an ancestor built out beyond the kitchens.


A car will hurry along an unseen road,

a pheasant hurtle into the air

over a crack

where tower blocks will be thrusting up.


The four will choose well separated seats,

break hesitantly into today’s psalm:

How can we sing

the Lord’s song in a strange land?


Why don’t they look out of arched windows,

take in what hills are doing nowadays,

that the house

is alone and alien among them?


Jean Harrison

published in Shape Sifting,  Cinnamon Press,  2007





Sunday Morning


Elusive blues, haze of splintered sunlight,

no edges; no hint of rays

bending off as they’re alleged to

ripening grapes on an invisible hillside;


Yesterday the guide said, Sturgeon live here,

ridged snouts and monstrous eyes

in at most eight feet of water;

no sign of them


only a bell, clear and insistent,

Come and celebrate mystery,

What’s the point? It’s all a trap.

Out here morning sun


is drawing a cluster of masts

clear and sharp against the poplars,

angles of reeds, jag of boulders

black smuts that shape up as swans;


and I stare at a still surface  

that plays me with dazzle  

a sudden wind can scoop up

spray dense enough to drown a swimmer.


Jean Harrison

published in Iota, 2006





The bedroom


her chest-of-drawers between two windows

unclear grain-lines under thick glass

flimsy metal handles rattle if touched


shallow drawers jerk onto unfamiliar scents

lily-of-the-valley she said      but it wasn’t like flowers

a powder puff loaded with pink that clogs her skin


silk stockings she slides up white legs        stretches her toes down

into the tips as if for someone else to see          next to them

her knickers      her petticoats


she’s downstairs now  stringy arms      reddened hands

poking the point of an iron into corners of pillow-cases

grey hair wild across a cheek   


‘Right-hand top drawer,’ she said and I’m dithering    

their left my right   but to try both     put my hand in  

rummage for the hanky she wants


in front of the mirror  which are the true eyes

those I saw her with last        their backs to my shoulder-blades

or doubles   staring back       reversed and tricky


Jean Harrison

published in Seam,  2007


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