Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 18 . . .

Still life

     by Peter Branson

Same bed and yet they’re poles apart. She’s plagued

by ghosts, to all intents, while he’s moved on.

A voice she feels she knows but can’t quite place:

“What are you doing here, my sweet?” it sighs,

weird stuff that won’t parse out.. While gardening

late afternoon, she reads a shadow in

the sitting room. Dives in, sure Dave’s come home,

but no one’s there. Haunted, riddled with guilt,

she’s on her own,. She sees the small black dog

inside the scullery, hears studded boots

clatter worn quarry floor. Alone sometimes,

feels arms steal tenderly about her thighs.

Hates people asking how she’s been. Three years,

no words to justify that tiny grave.

Out of the blue: “Gross abnormalities.

There’s nothing we can do. No quality

of life at best.” A Catholic nurse begs her

to pause and think:. “You’re sure it’s what you want,”

hand on her heart, womb in a vice-like grip.

She’s cursed with visions, frequents holy sites

to stem her barrenness: St Winifred’s Well,

immersion, head to toe; ruined abbey where

new miracles are claimed; mediums; psychics;

plain chant on tap. Pie in the sky? “Don’t ask!”

“Only yourself to blame,” her mother’s voice;.

“Ten years too late.” A child again, she hides

her face; night hikes to tire herself so she

might sleep; anti depressants, counseling.

The hills about are flecked with sheep. Above

the mantel in the oldest part, they’ve fixed

a huge ram’s horn, so apt somehow: she’s hexed

herself where folk once dwelt at one with beasts.


Peter Branson lives in Rode Heath, a village in South Cheshire, UK. A former English teacher and lecturer, he now organizes writing workshops. Until recently he was “Writer-in-residence” for the “All Write” project run by Stoke-on-Trent Central Libraries.

His poems have appeared in Acumen, Ambit, Envoi, Magma, The London Magazine, Iota, 14, Fire, The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Nottingham, Pulsar, Red Ink, The Recusant, South, Writing Magazine, The New Writer, Crannog, The Raintown Review, The Able Muse, and Other Poetry.

His first poetry collection, “The Accidental Tourist,” was published in May 2008. His second collection, “Red Shift,” published at the beginning of 2010 by Caparison Press is available to download at The Recusant. His third collection has been accepted for publication by Salmon Press, EIRE. Silkworms Ink issued his chapbook, “Vol X: Selected Poems.”


© 2010 Peter Branson