I sang with my neighbours today
in our ramshackle way
struggling to find
the starting notes,
so our carols won’t be
too high or too low.
We don’t call ourselves
singers. Really it’s just
an excuse every fortnight
to be together for an hour.
If only we didn’t feel
the need to perform
the Christmas rituals,
the pressure to be
more tuneful than we are.
We’ve missed several weeks
whilst some of us have been too ill,
desperate or weary,
and my voice still croaks
between the cracks
in the floorboards.
We’ve forgotten last year’s harmonies,
and the ease of banter is rusty.
We’re all holding our tongues
until the New Year, muffling
the clash of beliefs about the PM,
and the outcome of Brexit.
We expect radically different outcomes
so we don’t talk politics here.
There’s tinsel, mince pies,
and one woman drumming
an irregular beat against the table-tappings.
We’ve no time to get it right.
So we just pretend it will be
Some of us pray
for some support from the village
on the dark, rainy nights,
under different shades of fairy lights.
Hannah Linden is and award winning poet, published widely including with Magma, Strix, Under the Radar, Proletarian Poetry, Atrium and the 84 Anthology. She is working towards her first collection.
There’s a stillness tonight, a silence. Not so much a sense
of magic in the air or peace on earth settling like the snowfall
you still hope to wake to Christmas morning; no,
this is more the silence of ennui enveloping the estate,
no-one bothering to force a door or steal a car,
no siren or alarm, no searchlight, no helicopter circling.
Silence nudges the mind into overtime, imagination circling
like a drone. Nothing to see here, but sixth sense
smacks down common sense each time. That car –
dented side panel, paintwork the dirty white of driven snow,
aerial snapped off, a car you’ve not seen on the estate
before – behind the wheel: is that someone you know?
Or used to know? Or thought you’d left behind? No:
it’s just your mind and the night playing tricks. Circles
of coloured light reflected back from the one house on the estate
still going for broke with decorations gives a sense
of brightness, of festivity, but otherwise nightfall
is absolute. Streetlights accept defeat. The car
is gone when you look again. Call it a night. Forget about cars
occupied by shadowy figures you may or may not know.
You’ve spent too long at the window, like a child waiting for snow
that won’t fall – not tonight anyway. Snowflakes circling
in the streetlights’ weak penumbra? No sense
holding out for that Christmas miracle. Snow on the estate
came in April; the year before it was February the estate
armed itself with shovels, dug out driveways, cars
fishtailing on ungritted streets, slewing with all the sense
of movement and grace of a new-born foal. No,
it’ll be snow in June next year, winter’s isobars circling
through the summer forecast: frost, low temperatures, a fall
of snow. Soon it’ll be permanent: a year-long snowfall,
great drifting snowbanks barricading the estate,
huge walls of ice sealing off streets, encircling
the city, river frozen to a hard unmelting scar.
White in its endless dirty variations will be all you know.
Cold unremitting. Hands, feet, heart will lose all sense.
The future is circling, unsteady, about to enter freefall.
Dying smoke mingles with incense. Leave the estate,
join the caravan. Adapt. Abandon what you know.
Neil Fulwood is the author two collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere. Additionally, he has published two pamphlets with the Black Light Engine Room Press: Numbers Stations and The Little Book of Forced Calm. He lives and works in Nottingham.
Season of goodwill
Birdsong caught my ear
in the park this morning:
a blackbird chorusing
the grey sky, sweet as rain
on slate, and robin
in the garden, singing up
the leaves I raked –
a charm against the dark.
The Sainsbury’s manager sang
a tuneless, glassy note:
the broken bottle a shoplifter
crashed onto his bare head.
On his phone he showed me
a photo of the three-inch gash.
He explained glue and staples,
and why he was wearing a Santa hat
to match his Christmas jumper.
Kate Noakes: Website archived by the National Library of Wales boomslangpoetry.blogspot.com. Forthcoming Non-Fiction – Real Hay-on-Wye, Seren 2020. Current Poetry Collection – The Filthy Quiet, Parthian, 2019