Many a poem tells part of a story. It’s something a poem can do, select an element of narrative and concentrate on that. We don’t have to know what it was that might never have happened, in Maurice Devitt’s poem, or why the two friends never met again, in Sarah L Dixon’s.
Short poems can be packed so full of story. These can be big stories, the way people come and go from one’s life, the way family memories stretch into the past and future in Rona Fitzgerald’s poem. Or a story can be implied without ever being detailed at all, as in J C Elkin’s sonnet, a conceit and a simile of ‘S.S. Resentment.’
We are given a small anecdote about a little girl, with Mavis Gulliver, yet that anecdote brings us a whole world of character.
All these poems are short, and yet their stories have extensive backgrounds.
if he had spent more time
tidying away his dreams
double-checked the mirror
let his eye sneak
an extra second on the swell
of her breast
to cut a loose thread
from his sleeve
picked up the phone
when he heard it ring
rustled under the stairs
for an umbrella
had trouble with the latch
for the lunch he had forgotten
seen one magpie
and waited for a second
it would never
Originally published in Boyneberries
Sarah L Dixon
Our first day
For inspiration, I traipsed frozen ground
that Thursday in October ‘94
locked out of Chemistry – there, I found you, at the
end of the violent orange corridor.
Curled in the quadrant recording your thoughts,
thoughts of a future that won’t contain me.
Your confident smile pulled – a friendly force,
your flop of fringe invited intimacy.
We talked for three hours, easy together,
opened our journals, shared poems of our own
and mingled moments of childhood pleasure.
Rent-a- Ghost, Tiger Pig, Button Moon.
That Thursday in October ‘94
the only time we met, our only hours alone.
I thought we’d always know each other.
Standing on the Cast-iron Shore – Commended in Leaf Prize
and in 2008 Anthology. A response poem to Christina Rossetti ‘The First Day’.
She wondered what was left after they had all gone
the children to their adult lives, university, marriage
and he to some adventure that they could not share.
She tried to remember the things she loved
skirmishes with Beethoven on the piano, exploring the Beats
and the Brontes, going to the cinema in the afternoon.
She was young then, supple, now there is time
endless time, she doesn’t know whether she can do it, alone.
For today, maybe tidying the house is enough.
Published in Shorelines, 2012. New Voices Press
J C Elkin
I spy your pain vast as the briny blue.
I smell the creosote that seals your hold,
but don’t let enmity be what you rue
in logging a life’s voyage when you’re old.
S.S. Resentment is a mutinous ship
of blaggards bent on vengeance, lust and greed
since first its bow was christened in the slip
of poverty, abuse, neglect and need.
But pirate mates have nothing warm to offer
when sleet is raining down upon your soul.
The gold is locked inside the Captain’s coffer
each time the ship is headed for a shoal.
It’s time to cast your spoils into the foam.
Set sail and chart a new course bound for home.
First published in the Society of Classical Poets, Vol. 1, 2013
Your second summer
eyes wide with wondering
feet eager for adventure
a string of endless questions on your lips.
You danced with butterflies.
blue as the summer sky
bright as your smile.
‘Blue,’ you said, ‘blue butterflies,’
as you watched them fly and settle,
fly and settle
on the wild thyme on the hill.
Later we saw hydrangeas,
huge heads heavy with blooms.
‘Look,’ you cried.
‘A bunch of butterflies.’
First published in ‘Shropshire Butterrflies’ (Fair Acre Press, 2011.
Ed. Nadia Kingsley)