I posted them. Piles of envelopes into
a letter box alive with curls, mouth wide.
I pushed them in, then skipped a beat, startled
by the thud, that ricochet of drum and heart,
before they settled, each envelope in wait,
their flaps fixed by spittle of my dead mother.
They’d sat beside the phone when I toured the house.
I’d hesitated, wondered what they were,
then halfway down was mine, my name inscribed
with rounded Ds and Bs, the fullness of her As.
My envelope was plumper than the rest.
5 days later it arrived as if she lived.
I scored the top with care, removed the card,
the single folded note, delicate as skin.
Roberta James lives in London and works in television. She has had poems published in magazines and online. Twitter @Robertawriter
I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept
Hoar frost on the trees.
Breath clouding the window pane.
Squeak your fingers across the glass to
scrutinise the sky, an astronomer in ankle socks
deciphering the stars.
Spool back to the letter on the fire,
sucked up the chimney in a flash –
a pair of skates, a skipping rope –
the dash outside to catch the ashes on the wind,
smoke signals drifting over rooftops.
Roll forward through the years
and other words gone up in smoke –
We went to your mother’s last year;
not in front of the children.
It’s bad news, I’m afraid;
the first Christmas is the hardest.
All the Christmases roll together, all the voices
that have gone, blown skyward on the wind,
always snow at Christmas.
as a snowball gathers snow.
I hear them
as the child hears sleigh bells in that
close and holy whiteness.
I wear them
like a coat, turn my face towards the sky,
accept the falling flakes of snow.
Carol A. Caffrey is an Irish writer and actor living in Shropshire. Her work has been published in a number of journals and anthologies and her debut poetry chapbook will be published by 4Word Press in 2020.
Christmas Day, 1848. St Michael’s Church, Haworth
She sits in the family pew, head down.
Her father’s words fly from the black rock
of his pulpit like fieldfares, chasing up the nave
high above bonnets and caps, quarrelsome, lively,
ignored. She will not listen. Not today. A space
of cold air in the church where warm bodies
once pressed her close. Hidden in her glove
the withered spray of heather searched for
on the moors, too late. Those fierce eyes
were grown indifferent, unrecognising; the fight
was lost. No need now to tremble for the hard
frost and the keen wind. Her sister does not feel
them. She will write, later of God’s comfort –
today the new birth in the bleak hill village
is unaccompanied by any light.
Maeve Henry lives and works in Oxford. Her poetry has been published in various magazines and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Brotherton Prize in 2019, and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize in 2018.