Poems in 'Still Life': University of Chester anthology

These poems appear in The University of Chester's 'Still Life' anthology (ISBN 978-1-905929-88-7).

Copies available from The University of Chester or from the author.


'As for the appeal of icons to popular sentiment, perhaps this was best understood by local Soviet commanders in the 1930s [...] ordered to campaign against the influence of the Church, they were known to line up icons, sentence them to death and then shoot them.'

Judith Herrin, Byzantium

A stern Christ, a Theotokos, wise
and almond-eyed, the cloud of painted
witnesses who watched the priest,
week by week, bustling and fussing
behind the iconostasis,
each time observed, in spoon and chalice
the invisible, miraculous change.

Windows to heaven, dismantled, dislodged,
stacked in a shuttered row against the wall.

At the reading of the charges, the charging
of the barrels, the belt-feed, bolt-click, taking aim,
many wept. And in the stillness before
the splintering dance of painted panels
disintegrating in an iron wind,
as in the stillness beyond, the steady
crossing and recrossing of fingers,
dipping and rising, like the dipping and rising
of the golden spoon.


Once, we stopped, left our bikes, stripped
and swam covertly in the red clay-pit
we called the Quarry. Drying on its bank,
we looked back across its piers and poles,
those barbed wire strands,
that dorsal fin of corrugated iron,
compared our cocks and balls.

Of course, we dared not tell our parents,
as they'd neither dared tell theirs.
It all lies buried now, sunk without trace
beneath breeze-block and concrete,
dredged of its iron, its drowned boys
circling blind and deep beneath our feet
to clutch us had we swum there longer.