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poems beginning with J by Jehanne Markham

Poems are catalogued alphabetically. Please select a specific section by clicking on the the alphabet above.

Click on title to see poems:
HARD LINES
HEADSTONE
HINDOLVESTON HARVEST
SUPPER SONG

HINDOLVESTON OLD CHURCH
HOTEL ROYALE



HARD LINES

I dream of faces looking in -
then I pass my baby up
through the broken windscreen.

We lie on a verge as if sunbathing;
a helicopter takes us to hospital
like film stars in a glamorous rush.

I feel desperate like the White Queen
but I smile at you
being processed under a black machine.

You are sent to Soins Intensifs
for the dangerously ill;
the boys and I have plenty of time to kill.

We sit on a bed eating caramel rice,
the nurses are chic and very nice,
"Viens, Coco," they say as they wash the blood from the baby's face.

Tears gather in a hot secret way,
a choking necklace
to be stored inside my throat for another day.

I search for you down the long, clean corridors.
In a blue, moonless room, you lie,
under the caress of strange hands, unable to cry.

Red and white fluids curve in and out of you
instead of wings.
You smell bad, of broken things.

As the words wont unfold
you give me your familiar hand to hold,
damp fingers on the sheet.

A nurse comes to show me out,
her hair is beautifully combed in lines of gold,
she walks ahead without love heavy in her feet.

from Virago New Poets Virago 1993

HEADSTONE

They put it to bed tenderly as nursemaids,
bent to its immense weight
with stooped backs
and implacable hands.
They hauled it over humps and planks
with a crowbar and trolley,
they eased it to the head of the grave.
The mix was wet,
the concrete footing in place
and the Forest of Dean stone tipped in
with ease and grace.
Bounded by grief,
translated by deep-cut letters of love,
carved into and dancing over the stone face.

HINDOLVESTON HARVEST SUPPER SONG

Wheat, barley, corn,
These are the grains that grow,
Flushed pink in the early dawn
As the farmer negotiates his fate,
Walking home from the fields,
Totting up this year's lower than average yields.

Too little rain early on,
Shrunk the water table, dried the lakes,
Causing a hose -pipe ban.
Now the runner beans are twisted thin,
The corn on the cob won't fatten
And the onions have given in.

Oats, barley, wheat,
In wavy lines of gold,
These are the fields beneath our feet
Where poppies flop their heads and bow
Before the dusty combine and the noisy plough.

Too much rain in late spring
Rotted the crops
And soaked the wings
Of butterflies and bees, blackened the blossom of apple and pear,
Mossed the bricks to an emerald green,
Yes, twenty twelve was a bad year.

Beet, turnips, spuds,
Sprouting close to the road
Where tractor wheels leave trails of mud
Rolling in with tanks of spray under a windswept sky,
To kill the pests and swell the seeds,
To make 'em plants grow strong and high.

We're always in a hurry
To see the crops grow tall
We don't want weeds and wildlife to get in the way at all
But nature only ripens when the fruit is ready to fall
And the sun and the rain are the best fertilizers of all.

Corn, barley, oats,
Bend their tassels low
Before they are crushed and cracked to groats.
The elder is the dark jewel in the wood,
The rosehip spears the hedgerows,
The hawthorn can draw blood.

This year has been a slog
For shepherds everywhere
Keeping vigils in lonely barns with only a collie dog to share.
The cattle farmers too, have had it pretty rough,
With calves getting stuck in the womb
And hay too wet for the trough.

For this year only the ghosts of plenty
Are sitting by our side
And our baskets are almost empty
But we can still feel pride
At working on the land, sharing the trials and tribulations,
Being ready to lend a hand.

So let the Harvest Moon
For ever be our guide,
Her, with her lovely lantern, pulling in the tide.
Let her light shine upon this village,
With a blessing for the church,
For every person in this school house
And every horse, cow, chicken, duck, dog, cat and every mouse.

Unpublished 2012

HINDOLVESTON OLD CHURCH

A white moon half chalked in the sky
Hangs delicately above the ruined tower;
Rooks are the clergy now as they crack and cry,
Circling the gaunt, ivy clad bower.

The dew from the grass has blackened my shoes,
I sit on a tombstone, bike propped on gate,
Tracing the lines of the 'p's and 'q's
To read the eighteenth century name and date:

"Here lies The Remains of Joseph Whitley
Gent
Who Departed This Life
The 28th August 1763"

Elder, sloe, fir and oak
Grow with the nettles higher and higher
And from a nearby garden, smoke
Curls up from a fresh lit Autumn fire.

In the far corner are the newer stones
Where the recent burials lie:
The bodies, the souls, the bones,
The flowers are piled up high.

Memories are stirred today
While pigeons croo their soft refrain;
The carved letters may fade away
But the love will always remain.

2013

HOTEL ROYALE

White heat on the concrete floor, 90 degrees Fahrenheit
dapples the deep aquamarine of the luxury pool,
blue lines draw the silk curtains shut against the light

inside the hotel room. Neither angel nor fool
could disregard the simple fact that we are man and wife
and over our own eyes we'll pull down the wool

that binds us like the strands of our shared life.
Our worries, our work, our wishes, protects as soft wire
strengthens the worn handle of an old kitchen knife;

and so, against all the odds, the secret pathways of fire
still find a way up through the mosaic surface of the day
to crack the stonework with tendrils of desire.

So kiss me, then, stroke my hair,
while we move, temporarily, beyond earthly despair.

from Thirty Poems Rough Winds 2004

AUGUST

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