Grunting Up*

Who would have thought that these great slab sided beasts
who fall to their knees and slump belly up,
would sing this rhythmic grunting lullaby?

Weight drops from back and loins but
swollen undulating glands seem added on,
like a full frill at the bottom of a skirt.

The piglets rush to their particular nipple
and plug on, tongues curling, eyes closed,
chubby fingers, lined up, reaching.

And then she begins. This low throbbing,
this song to the milk flow,
this crooning hymn.

“Grunting up” the name given to the noise a sow makes when her piglets are sucking.


A path leads me to a tangle of buckled poles
and a Roe deer trawled in, trying to flip his fate,
kicking and twisting against the snare of cords
churning the grass around him in fury.

I cling to the loose lines like a kite in a gale
and exhausted he stops, mouth gaping,
bubbles of saliva around his blue slug tongue,
each sucked breath ending in a grunt.

His fish eye, dilated, looks through mine.
The sheet I slip over his head stills
the trembling to tautness. All muscles,
elastic stretched to the point of anticipation.

I sever each straining cord. They whip away,
cut after cut, and the only things in our world
are the cords and the knife and our breath
held somewhere high up in our throats.

I have written about my experiences as a stepmother; the joy, the heartbreak and the feeling of not always being heard. Fairy tale themes run through these poems and they appear in my first collection Auscultation https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/auscultation

Fairy Tales and Step Monsters

I wish I’d held your hand more often.
It would have been easy.
I wish I’d worried less

and made a nest of my fingers
for it to curl inside,
it used to slip into mine anyway.

Do you remember the models we made
out of cardboard and paper?
Rockets and market stalls

and castles from toilet rolls,
me holding things together
while the glue dried.

Did you ever look in a mirror
and long for three wishes?
However hard I tried I could only see

you through a window, hear your voice
on the other side of a door,
touch your arm through your sleeve.

The Court Decides

It wasn’t thirteen fairies that sealed your fate
but a man in black robes, a king in his own little
castle and because those closest to you turned
on a spit of loss and hate and jealousy.

Spite was the spindle that made you sleep
and the king so bored by his own omnipotence
looked over our heads when he gave the verdict
that closed you behind a screen of thorns.

We waited our hundred years; seeing a blond haired
boy in every crowd, turning whenever a small voice
called out Daddy ad tracing the scars of separation
with hesitant fingers when we undressed at night.

At the appointed hour we waited by the castle gates
wondering if your sleep had contained our dreams.
The briars parted, we ran to you, woke you
with a kiss and held you as though you were glass.

A poem about Morris dancing and all its glorious foolishness.

The Morris

The pagan thing is just for the punters,
in truth, it’s a magpie’s trove trawled
from wars and trade and music hall,
an excuse to shout outside pubs,
a peacock strut of baldricks and ribbons;
bells, bellies and dented tankards
and that’s just the women,
an excuse to sing ballads;
bawdy and sad, to join in choruses
about lost love and maidenhood.
It is a chance to caper foolishly,
to feel the pulse in the music,
to stretch muscle against chord.
It is catching your partner’s eye
in the stillness of the half turn before the hey.
It is the tuning fork in the bone.
It is the need to gather and to dance.

In which a poet compares her similarities to a test tube

Today we made soup together, I thought it

was an activity that would appeal but as I

diced hard bulbs of onions until they bled

white, you maintained a silent passivity.

Undeterred, I pared skins from sweet

potatoes showing you how each discarded

leathery strip uncovered the nub of

something unexpected; how they could be

transformed in a saucepan by adding stock

and turning the heat up high. You watched

with your passive aggressive stillness I

couldn’t quite label as disinterest or

contempt. I wondered what occupied your

slimline mind; was it the bite of acid, the

scorch of alkali, how you hold it all as

electrons are displaced  to higher  shells? I

wanted to know how it felt when silica and

quartz were made molten and annealed.

Don’t we both burn in creation? I wanted you

to acknowledge our shared alchemy but you

give nothing away. I add lime juice, honey,

season well, eat my fill in front of you.       

Tell me, now do you have the words for it?