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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Twelve Staffordshire Poets: A Reflective Collection


RISING BROOK WRITERS

Copyright - Disclaimer:

To the best of our knowledge and belief all the material included in this publication is in the public domain or has been reproduced with permission and/or source acknowledgement. RBW have researched rights on material where possible. ŠRising Brook Writers 2008 Contributors retain the copyright to their own material.

www.risingbrookwriters.btik.com www.myspace.com/risingbrookwriters Cover Picture: Trees, Rising Brook, Stafford This anthology is dedicated to the musician, writer and jazz composer, Barbara Barron and also to the writer and poet, Barbara Stockham. Published by Rising Brook Writers RCN 1117227 First Edition ISBN 978-0-9557086-1-9

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All proceeds to RBW future projects. 2


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Introduction The Staffordshire Introspective collection aims to reflect diverse voices and aspects of Staffordshire life as seen through the eyes of twelve local residents. Writers taking part in amassing this collection, besides participants of Rising Brook Writers Library and On-Line Workshops, are members of the long established writing group Pentacle. Rising Brook Writers is a voluntary charitable trust. RBW scribes are, in the main, mature students, and include disabled and senior citizens. RBW aims are to promote literacy and introduce the joys of selfexpression through Creative Writing Projects to other Over 50s/senior citizens. RBW meet at Rising Brook Branch Library, on Monday afternoons 1.30pm to 3.30pm, and are deeply grateful to Staffordshire Library Service and also for the support from library staff members: especial thanks also go to, projects mentor, Jane Wells of SBC‘s CultureGen. Anyone planning for a creative retirement, who fancies having a go at writing . . . plays . . . poems . . . stories . . . novels . . . is welcome to come along to try out RBW Library Workshops : think about it - if you don‘t tell your stories, who will? Any organization with Over 50s membership who would like a visit from our Touring Workshops please contact via website. It‘s fun and it‘s FREE . . . RBW are deeply indebted to Stafford District Arts Council for supporting this community project. 3


RISING BROOK WRITERS

CONTRIBUTORS Anne Picken Clive Hewitt Barbara Barron Stephanie Spiers Fred Waterfall Edith Holland Audrey Rainbow Geoffrey Lyon Jane Moreton Joy Tilley Isabel Gillard Barbara Stockham

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Edith Holland Autumn We see the changing colours of the countryside, each day gazing in wonder, as we pause by the woods a bend in the lane brings a fresh view; a kaleidoscope of autumn, reds, yellows and greens. Against the pearly evening sky a sudden swirl of a thousand starlings, and we hold our breath as the magic works once more, a celebration of nature in everyway.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Audrey Rainbow

OLD AGE What am I missing now I‘m growing old? Well, I like not having to do as I‘m told, I like not having to sit still all day When all I wanted was to run out and play. I like not having to look for a mate, Then cry all night long because he was late. I like not worrying what to have for tea, Now I only have to shop for me. I like deciding when I‘ll go to bed As long into the night my book can be read. Do I mind it‘s harder to climb the stairs? And make old lady noises when rising from chairs, Or struggling with jars and childproof tops, And forgetting what I wanted when I get to the shops, Or when the grey roots are showing through? 6


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

And steak‘s off the menu – it‘s too hard to chew, Or need a lie down after changing the bed, And keep saying the things my Mother once said. Yes, part of me minds all these things I can‘t do, But new challenges await as I near sixty-two. So bring them all on I‘m raring to start But not too much excitement – it‘s bad for my heart!

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Edith Holland

REFLECTIONS I find reflections a tiresome word, Having no substance only a brief glimpse, caught in a shiny surface. Just a windblown cloud sailing across the lake, The willows hanging down to meet their likeness in the water, Even as the swans dip to make rings in their own reflections. Great slab sided modern glass buildings Doubling their world within their depth, Then back down to earth with the shut out feeling of Wrap-around shades of the man in the queue. But there's always beauty, as the crystal in the window catches the sun, Sending a myriad rainbows sliding around the room. 2007 8


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Isabel Gillard CAT ON AMBER Deep in his fathomless eyes you could fall into his bygone summers, qreen as qlass clear as light filter through leaves, a round sheaves, where once he hunted the lingering scent of field-mice gone before made do with patting unclaimed fallen stems filled up with dusty sun. Like them he too is settling to the ground. No longer a coiled spring he's fastened to the centre of the earth. Only his eyes drink in the lees of summer wine.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Edith Holland

The Village Show As you all know, it will soon be the SHOW, And this is our last formal meeting, The marquee‘s erected, the judges selected, And straw bales are here for the seating. The scout-master‘s said he has boys who are ready To guide all the cars to the field, The local free paper has promised a write up, I‘ve polished the cups and the shield. Are the entry forms all in now Mrs Kelly And each one put in its right section? Remember last year, what a mix-up there were, This year our aim is perfection. At 10.30 sharp, the judging will start, I‘ve no need to tell you what that means, Security tight, no intruder in sight, They‘re measuring the carrots and French beans.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

The gates will be open at half past one, When Lady Anne hopes to be here, We will be in our places, with bright smiling faces, The children can give her a cheer. Is your grandchild au fait, about the bouquet Mrs Purvis? Please say she‘s willing, Last year I remember she fell over her feet, And had to be bribed with a shilling! What‘s that you say Freddie? A phone call for me, If it‘s urgent I‘ll I go to the den, WHAT!! Lady Anne‘s had a fall, can‘t be here after all? WE‘LL BE ASKING THE VICAR AGAIN . . . . . Sept 2007

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

‗FINBAR‘, THE GREYHOUND

Anne Picken

He walks weightless, a fragile puppet on ethereal strings; head arrowed down, ears close in velvet folds, light as indifferent kisses his claws pitter on pavement. But haunches swell above the needle legs and a smooth thickness slabs his neck. If he walked in wildness he might suddenly stop, stiffen, ears sprung to aerials, eyes to lasers. Then he'd dip… aim… and flash like rippling light, fly marsh and heather, fly bracken and bilberry, bunch-stretch-bunch and swerve with pitiless power till snarling daggers gash, race and gash, and the wide-eyed leaping deer comes crashing down. We take him to the park and try to get him to chase a ball. 12


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

'MAYHEM', THE LURCHER

Anne Picken

Pup of the noble Finbar and some friendly mutt, she bounds into each day with glossy glee, ebony eel on carbon fibre springs, an ecstasy of life. Ripped books, wrecked chairs, trashed shoes or scattered bin low as a snake she hugs the floor, holding her breath. An impish peep from chip of gleaming jet, and the mirth of her, the lanky, leaping joy of her, the, shining prancing bliss of her, save her.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

The Music Man

Geoffrey Lyon

There goes the music playing in my mind, Often in my thoughts it plays anew, Yet all about is the incessant noise of life. I hear the music when I think of you. Though I knew at first, I‘m certain now T‘was music. Your ‗Hello‘ became much more, Since we‘re in tune in so many ways, The music in our thoughts will sound, encore. Ask not the melody of this wondrous spell, Just close your eyes and hear the music too. Listen to the beat of hearts in tune And dream of strings that play for me and you. I hear the music playing once again. For you and I alone the oceans‘ roar, With tunes for singing in the summer rain Or rhapsodies that play for evermore.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

My Butterfly

Geoffrey Lyon

I know a little Butterfly, It is a Clouded Yellow. He flutters round inside my head, In dreams he also visits me, He‘s such a splendid fellow. Now, Guardian Angels often can Take special form, or view. This Butterfly so fine is he, He guides me when I need him Through everything I do. So when my friend I think of you In daytime, or at night, I‘ll simply tell my Butterfly To flutter out across the sky And see that you‘re all right. Today, tomorrow, always, a friend with wings will show at my request, to light your way Each and every single day The path on which you go. 15

GPBL ‗02


RISING BROOK WRITERS

‗SORREL‘, TOP DOG

Anne Picken

"It's time," her eyes said, as she stood splay-legged, head pulled askew. Her tail wagged softly, "We must go and do this." She was top dog then, quietly gathering me together. Three days and a night we'd battled. She'd tried, oh she'd tried, dragging unheeding legs along the path where once she flew ecstatic with the prospect of green space and hurtling sticks. How had she gauged their trajectories? Streaked to catch them? She‘d hauled great branches for a joke, manoeuvred them through gateways, dropped them in front of me, dancing in mock hope, tail high, eyes grinning, brain like diamond – until the clot.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

"Drink," I said on the second day. "You must drink." But she turned her head away. "Eat!" I said on the third day, stuffed chicken, fish, omelette, in her mouth, but she turned again and let it fall. "Sleep then," I said. "Sleep heals." "It is time," her eyes said, "I trust you." The vet was kind. "Her tail's wagging anyway. Hold her head so she can see you." But as the needle pierced a terror leapt, bucked, shot panic... I held her firm, "Good girl," I soothed, top dog again. She calmed. Settled. "Her tail's still going," the vet said. "I've never seen that before."

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

I Remember Father‘s Fingers

Countryman

Father lost two fingers, while mowing hay one day, He was helping Uncle Dan on the meadows, not at all at play, Only thirteen started working, horses in the shaft, The mower blocked with grass, clearing it by hand (how daft). He lifted blade and went round back, while it was still in gear, One horse did stamp his foot at flies, and gave the blade two shithers, This was just enough no doubt, cut two fingers in one go, He never said how he stopped, the blood, there must have been a flow, The little finger it was off, above the lower joint, The next was off above second, clean cut to a point, Hospital took one off at knuckle, and stitch the flap of skin, Tuther left half a stub, of finger: what a sin.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

No safety men to bother them, it was get him back to work, They healed so slow, it was a blow, but not a time to shirk, A motor bike he bought one day, to get about much quicker, It had a belt to drive, hand clutch, and blow up tyre, Mother he did find one day, while he was out on bike, He gave a lift and she did find, how cold the bike could be, Knit pair of gloves did she, to fit his fingers short, Then regularly did see her out ,and then began to court.

Round the table Sunday breakfast, father told us tales, Of how he helped his Uncle Dan, less fingers and no bales, We had to always asked him, to tell us that again, Of how he lost his fingers, and all about the pain.

Countryman A tale he told us while working for his Uncle Dan, he must have been around thirteen years old.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Steph Spiers HOLLY BANK Sank in 1890, closed in fifty two, Earthborn hell, hewn where no light shone. Dust hated pit; air thick ‘n blue. Do widows grieve Holly Bank is gone? Far beneath fair Staff‘s clay, red face. Lurk yawning shafts which drop to gloom. High above, the bracken covered Chase Of the King‘s gorse ‘n saffron broom. The timid Roebuck frolic ‘n play seek, on heath and ringed birch forest. Concealing seams without God‘s day, unmerciful takers of our dearest. Littleton, New Essington ‘n Holly Bank, reapers of mere boys ‘n solid men. Collieries, sweat hot, black and dank, Echo our dead boys, every soul worth ten. 20


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Steph Spiers Littleton Colliery Epitaph Arm in arm, we grieved today. I‘m glad my brothers are gone, Never seeing such destruction. Our shaft winding wheels are none, Our brave men-folk all departed No dirty faces blinking at the sun. I‘m glad my dad is dead. I‘m glad he never lived to see this day. The whole of his life‘s work gutted. They‘ve taken his soul away. The Littleton Pit has gone, Flattened back to clay. 1997

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Isabel Gillard

SPACE TRAVELLER Out of the stardust of the distant past a sweet conjunction looms from pollened space. Thousands of light years' travel from the source, out of primeval man's first, warm embrace, out of the moon-path sea's slow ebb and flow, out of the weedy margins warmed with sun, from the enchanted forest on two legs something approaches, long ago begun. Out of a clear sky, up from the sombre earth, from the eternal heavens' un-metered height this soft, closed bud, unfurls like a leaf, out of primeval darkness into light. Out of the stardust of the distant past, wide, sky-washed eyes taking all things in, then drowsing, jet-lagged out of time, this child arrives, enchanted peregrine.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Breakdown Villanelle

Isabel Gillard

Who finds the best analgesic for every ghastly human ache? What happens when the doctor‘s sick? What happens when the doctor‘s sick and you have just sustained a kick inducive of a total break down of the leg or the heart‘s quick? The answer seems to be opaque. Who finds the best analgesic? What sugared pill is there to lick? What panacea do you take? What happens when the doctor‘s sick? If fate lays low the old medic, whether or not he is a fake, who finds the best analgesic? Without his hard-to-read rubric you might as well jump in the lake. When knees and heart begin to quake, there is no medicine to take. Who finds the best analgesic? What happens when the doctor‘s sick? 23


RISING BROOK WRITERS

Steph Spiers Trentham Colliery Epitaph Hem Heath‘s gone heard them say Closed and shuttered yesterday, No more coal shines glossy black, Potters‘ sons stopped shovelling slack. No more mates, no more noise, The very last shift for our boys. No more winch cage clanking down Wise-cracking blokes overalled in brown, Echoing laughter from the rich seam, A glint of light from a hard hat beam. NIMBY protest held the sway No surprise the miners had to pay. 1997

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Steph Spiers Thoughts on Stafford‘s Closed Down Factories The Lotus On Sandon Road the Lotus grounds of flowering cherry tree, replaced by over-garage three stor-ey. Developers of the bespoke suit, architectural schemes only bear fruit, by demolishing slices of history for rows of over-garage three stor-ey. Ohh . . .‘The Lotus‘ maybe long gone, But, a taste of nostalgia lingers on. -o0o‗The Ingo!‘ ‗Promised a job for life at ‘The Ingo‘,‘ that‘s what he said in broad Staffs lingo. Engine Shop Foreman he‘d been by jingo, that sad eyed sweeper at Queensville Bingo! 25


RISING BROOK WRITERS

The Rising Brook

Steph Spiers

Springing up at Hyde Lea, by sacred hill fort ring, Rushing headlong down bank, while grazing cattle sing, Whistles under M6 gully; sending winging bats all a scurry, Trickles under nettled slopes, where water voles are in a hurry. Forced under graffiti footbridge, to skirt the fence by Highfields Club, Sings along side the football pitch; wide-eyed vixen hides her cub. Darkly under West Way, squeezed by pipe and drain, Bubbles into sunlight, lets the allotments ease their strain, Plays seek under school lane, dapples to glimpse the daylight. Plunges under the four four nine, murky black as any night. Whipping downhill, picks up speed, tumbles through Brook Glen, Railway embankment looming large, culverted by ancient men, Emerges gushing fierce, races into Silkmore Lane, Bank bursting torrent, laughs and chortles o‘er the manmade plain. Spills pell-mell to water meadow, gushing with a new found glee, At the Radfords begins in earnest its journey to the far off sea. (Winner of the United Press 2008 UK National Poetry Prize) 26


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Jane Moreton WEATHER FORECAST We were promised snow but it didn‘t come. We exclaimed in disappointment, thought the sky was leaden, heavy. It should have come. It snowed in the afternoon, delicate, tiny flakes, sifting down from some gigantic flour-shaker filling the crevices in stone walls, fur-collaring tufts of grass in the rose beds covering tyre tracks and foot prints. Up a long horseshoe drive birds had run to and fro, to and fro, across the white, leaving a Chinoiserie of insubstantial tracks.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Countryman We have a poor old Alder tree We have a poor old Alder tree, standing by a gate, Been there a long time, wire and rails locate, Grown in the fence line and now matured, Nails and hinges in the trunk, below the bark obscured. As the branches break away, and rot gets in its core, It becomes hollow down the middle, breaks away some more, All one side is open now, right down to the ground, Still clad with bark on three sides, inside insects abound. Its canopy is in full leaf, but a skeleton of what it was, Wonder how it still stands, the rubbing cattle draws, All gnarled and knobbly, from the years of damage A sort of beauty in its old age, time has took its ravage. 28


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Jane Moreton SUNFLOWER Radio on for company: the musician speaks: ‗I remember I said ‗I don‗t know what to play. This music isn‘t mine, much as I love it. What shall I play?‘‘ They were there to re-play an icon

the ever-changing, revolutionary Miles... ―I didn‘t know what to play. ‗Just play,‘ said my friend. ‗In the end, we can only be ourselves.‘‖ Now on the central reservation of the M6 a stunted sunflower nods and turns, bows to me, gold face dancing in the wind of rushing cars.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

I remember Mother‘s Mid Week Chicken Dinner In mid week we often had, ―chicken‖ for our dinner, Tough old hen more soup than meat, always was a winner, So after breakfast mother went, to feed the laying hens, On her way she would note, the one who‘s still in pens.

If it looked as if not laying, she would wring its neck, Hang it in the coal shed, all flap and no more peck, Pulling on the old tea cosy, well down over her ears, And an old mac kept for this job, doesn‘t matter how it appears.

Feathers and the fluff do fly, and also mites do run, This is why she‘s well covered up, as it is so often done, With the news paper on the table, to be drawn it is now ready, And out with good sharp knife, off with legs and neck all bloody.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Nick below the parson‘s nose, with hand the guts she pulls the lot, Saves the heart and gizzard, also neck to make the stock, Into the pot this tough old hen, no time for it to go cold, Steamed for a good two hours, then the lid too hot to hold.

Into the pot goes all the veg, and a heap of part boiled taties, Given another half hour simmering, before it hits the platters, We all come in for dinner time, lunch to someone posh, Plates piled up, our bellies to fill, we loved our chicken nosh.

Countryman

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

MILL RACE Mill Bank: What a strange sight to see! Where the Mill Race used to be, High rise and ‗ANOTHER‘ hostelry! Just what we needed didn‘t we? Steph Spiers 2007

The River Sow Springing from the earth, Flowing through history, cradling industry, Weaving round the lives of us all, Taking our dreams along, making our memories. Edith V Holland 15.04. 2007

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Joy Tilley — Brief Extract from Lyrics to Music First Performed in St Chad‘s Church During Stafford Festival 2007

WATERSHED Watershed of England, writhing like some curling snake along, Pennines make a backbone, rests its head in Staffordshire at last, Ancient reptile, each hill top a vertebra of the spine of England: Ancient reptile, fields and woods make maculate scales Upon its flanks, down its sides, Serrated snakesback, England‘s watershed. High over, sun-drawn threads of water weave linen-white clouds, The wind-blown clean washing hung up to dry in the sun. On high, grazing the meadow blue, the cream-fleeced sheep in the sky float. Rain, on its way to the sea, on its way from the fardistant sea, Brings the blessing of life: Falling rain on its way from the sea, on its way to the far distant sea, Brings the blessing of life to all. The falling rain gives life to all, gives life to all.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Jane Moreton KEEP FIT CLASS - END OF TERM No men have come today, only women, except the instructor. We‘ve done his bidding to the music - volume, as ever, just a bit too high. We‘ve marched on the spot, done our loosening-up; even, for a bit of fun, come out to lead the class for a crazy moment with star jumps, Charlie Chaplin‘s walk, couple of links of Grand Chain, a circling galop and the Hokey Cokey.

Now, released from marching orders while teacher sorts out food - end of term party, Christmas! we drift to the music, ornament our steps, add a lilt of the arm, a glide, dreaming in another world. Some spin, rapt, eyes half-closed; some bop, smiles wistful, looking back to when they did this every day. We weave a thread, in-out, in-out: thread hums, we draw it in, play our own measures on it. Acquaintances only, but comfortable together. 34


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Jane Moreton MOVING IN Today the woman in the Building Society greeted me by name, and later, a young woman in the street whom I recognised but could not place, said ―Hello‖ very warmly between two bites of a bun. Then the hairdresser remembered why I could not come between 12 and 2 on a Thursday and what‘s more, that I live at the top of the hill... What could be more welcoming in a new place? Someone may phone today and ask me to coffee...

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Steph Spiers

Squeezed

Even though 840,000 UK properties stand empty:-

They‘re building: 4bed detached on the salt marsh,

Doesn‘t that seem a bit harsh? They‘re building: first-time-buyer on the flood plain,

Where are those town-houses going to drain? They‘re building: social-housing above landfill,

Ever heard of toxic spill? They‘re building: high-rise on the soft river bank,

With cellars that are mushroom dank? They‘re building: terraces on scrub land,

High-density, crammed, ‗B‘ band! They‘re building: over-garage on the brown field,

Heavy-metal, toxins yield?

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

They‘re building: ‗exclusive‘ on the garden plots,

Where once grew forget-me-nots. They‘re building: posh-pads on the green belt,

Pasture covered with bitumen melt. They‘re building: ‗architect-designed‘ along the roadside,

Where Mr Brock did once abide. They‘re building: singletons o‘top the pit shaft.

Isn‘t that just plain daft? They‘re building: ribbon-development along the lane.

Ripping out hedgerows seems insane. They‘re building: Apartments on the water meadow.

Where willows did cast a darkling shadow. Quality of life‘s so fragile here on planet earth, Yet of common sense there seems a dearth.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Seighford Village Had Six Farms Seighford village had six farms, as my memory recalls, Worked by horses in the shaft, cows milked in the stalls, Everything was done by hand, muck in the barrow mauled, To field in horse and cart, to feed the soil to grow it all. They had all sorts of livestock, and all the crops as well, Almost self-sufficient, feed and fatten stock to sell, Milk and beef, sheep and pigs, wheat for bread to mill, Quality in the produce sold, these things they did excel. Countryman

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Time and Tide Not Changed Looking back how it‘s changed, stood the wind and weather, See the houses planted there, old and new together, Thatch houses gone, and new ones to replace, New generation of village people, life goes on apace. New trees have grown, old ones felled and gone. Account for most of them, remember almost every one, Public footpaths are still walked, through far fields range. Fields and hedges are the same, time and tide not changed. Countryman

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

LACE

Isabel Gillard

Strange the persistence of these shadow shapes thrown by the lamp's glow past reality; repeated patterns conjuring crystal geometry of snow, blanched garden roses climbing spun trellises, grass fronds bent by an imagined breeze, the moonlit pomp of peacocks' tails, galaxies of pin-pointed stars, fanfares of feathers, whisper-soft and deer, at rest, in silent forest glades. The web that holds them stretches to transmit their printed shadow like a touch, a kiss, a butterfly on silken skin. Calls up the scent of lavender, the distant nightingale. Turns the machinery of existence at bobbin weight, with the ease of sweeping eyelashes, a dropped glance. 40


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Barbara Stockham ELUSIVE Ancient knowledge once well we learned, When the wheel of life has full circle turned, And corridors of time and space are crossed, Would we then find what we have lost? Strange standing stones in disarray, Hold well kept secrets from yesterday. To know at last a grain of sand, Is moved by a higher being‘s hand. In the blinking of an eye, Millennia pass swiftly by. Molecules of reasoned thought, Combine to make a life so short.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Exfoliation

Barbara Stockham

I went to the doctor, he said, ‗You have dry skin!‘ To exfoliate I must begin . . . To the pharmacy I rushed Into my hand the chemist thrust . . . Discs for my inhaler, some pills, and one huge pot. Didn‘t I have a lot? I went quickly to my abode Bag of prescriptions was a heavy load. At bath time my hub asked quite lame . . . ‗What‘s all this? A silly game?‘ ‗Oh no darling, you must exfoliate.‘ He rubbed his hands, he couldn‘t wait. His ardour failed so quickly As I said, ‗No, my skin is sickly . . .‘

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Stafford‘s Walls

Geoffrey Lyon

There is a castle near our town, No ramparts does it have at all, The walls are a crumbling down. There is a ‗South Walls‘ Street as well, It‘s next to Cope Street by Eastgate, Yet the wall has long since fell. Our ‗North Walls‘ has a sample left, Until some vandals knock it down, Of plaque, or purpose, it‘s bereft. Today these sites are history, Though modern times affect us all, So now there is no mystery. We ring our town with roundabouts, And add the dreaded traffic lights Then gridlock leads to planning doubts. ―Your Worship, Ladies and Gentlemen, Shouldn‘t we have a rethink now? Please can we have our Walls again?‖

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Joy Tilley

Seven Springs February Is it green, or grey still, The lichen on the oak bark? Each holly leaf a hedgerow mirror Of the strengthening sun. Hazel catkins scatter a yellow benison On early bumble bees. But birches, yet monochrome, Await a later palette.

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Edith Holland

The Witching Hour The first strike of midnight:Then silence. They are wondering, waiting, eager. There‘s soft rustling of straw, Soft breathing of them all. The dog, alert, is first to hear it; The lamb‘s gentle bleat agrees. ‗I can fly and see,‘ says the bird. A high whinny from the horse, with a question ‗Where?‘ ‗We‘re too soon,‘ moos the ox. ‗Wait till we‘re called,‘ brays the ass. The dove circling round: ‗Come now, come now.‘ A twinkling star above the thatch shows the way, As the last strike of twelve echoes across to them. They know it is Time.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Winter Solstice.

Barbara Barron

The presents are wrapped beneath the Christmas tree. In bright paper, shining, with tinselled string and jolly little labels. How exciting for the children to see such indulgent mystery. There are lights on the tree, which glisten on and off, And then gradually come to brightness, courtesy of the MEB. Does this look back to a time when the frost on the trees was almost as bright As the electric lights? See the windows sprayed with plastic snow, how quaint and cosy, Knowing the power of the central heating would negate any cold deposits. A time of laughter, merriment and jollity, And fear, should there be fear? No of course not, here‘s the Xmas turkey, brown and steaming, With all the vegetable trimmings, dinner amid the wrapping paper 46


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Thrown in a pile, the presents now all viewed on display. How long before these get forgotten and broken? There are prickles to Christmas just like the holly, With blood red berries, so symbolic. There are pickles at Christmas, storing the summer sun. And goodness knows summer needs storing, Or does it, in this time of plenty and comfort. Why the sun never dies now, perhaps never to be born again, Nobody really cares about it any more. Who notices the sun‘s about to die? When the days begin and end in darkness Who worries about the God‘s return? We sing ―The Holly and the Ivy‖ But we forget the evergreen leaves were summer‘s last hope. If the leaves stay green perhaps the God will return, To bring a wealth of goodness, of summer fruits and meat. 47


RISING BROOK WRITERS

The Yule log is burned and carries on burning throughout the winter, It is a token from the God, A little bit of sun strayed from the sky. So they made the small God A young man well chosen, The best of the group of young men we have raised. His is great honour We dress him in all finery, with crown of holly, Clothed in fine garments, warm furs, of the best. He is fed of the lean of the meat, his the place of honour And at the winter solstice he gladly pours forth his life To enable the great God to return once more to the heavens, to bring life to others The holly bears a berry as red as any blood.

BB 2006

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STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Missing

Steph Spiers

Missing you is being bullied in Miss Ashworth‘s class, Missing you is bare feet crunching on broken glass, Missing you is the world switching over to ‗Mute‘, Missing you is hurting over a friend‘s dispute, Missing you is buying chips without salt, Missing you is everything‘s always my fault, Missing you is the horror of Concord crashing, Missing you is lorry tyres puddle splashing, Missing you is as sore as an open wound, Missing you is reaching out for a silent sound, Missing you is eyes wide staring at a game-show, Missing you is chilblains throbbing in winter snow, Missing you is two weeks in Benidorm, Missing you is being a caterpillar that can‘t transform, Missing you is Mozart through ear defenders, Missing you is sales day at Marks and Spencers, Missing you is cardboard instead of cornflakes, Missing you is my life drifting by in out takes, Missing you is a ticking clock without a chime, Missing you is so much worse at Christmas time.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Clive Hewitt WELL IT‘S ONLY CHRISTMAS I was at church t‘other day, it being Xmas time. Got out the old nativity, its state was just a crime. The figures they all w‘there but som‘ats got to go, ‗cos in the Jesus bit; there was an overflow. Four Joe‘s; with one that‘s gone PC, it‘s lost a bit so it is on ‗The Dis - abil- ity‘. I don‘t know how the Marys cope, ‗cos they is just a pair The cow was good, the camel too, but the donkey‘s lost its hair. I‘m none to sure about the sheep, they looked a bit like goats, and somebody has been and gone and swapped the straw for oats. When it came to the wise men – or was it merely kings? Of the rich, there was, an embarrassment of the things. There was seven of ‘em; or maybe there was more; so I put ‘em down to form a choir on the floor. 50


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

The stable needed work on; the roof had come away, The thatch was going haywire, in a funny sort of way. The ladder to the hayloft was just hanging in the air and for the rest, it‘s sad to say, the stable it was bare. Although he‘s only plastic, the shepherd boy‘s a treat He was going to a Barbie, and he had brought the meat. We fixed it up alright tho‘. Well just good enough for now. A new one for next year though; or there will be a row. When it comes to thoughts of Christmas let‘s have a note of cheer. ‗Cos when you think about it, it‘s only once a year.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Geoffrey Lyon A Seasonal Poetic Thought Our local writers‘ team Can poetic words provide, For all who care to read Our message for today And thoughts for next Yuletide. History‘s many poets could, All perform great feats, From Bryon, and from Wordsworth, Housman, Shelley, Tennyson And also, young John Keats. So let‘s recall the bards of old, Before next Christmas Day To savour what their works did mean For hearts, and minds, and happiness 52


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

In verse today we have so much. Like real old vintage wine, Enjoy next Yuletide spirit folks, A happy Christmas all When the bells begin to chime. As the poet Keats once said, (Can we just add in haste?) ―Writing is another form of prayer.‖ So pray for peace, and raise a glass For the favourite seasonal taste.

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

Steph Spiers

Christmas Stuffing Hot mince pies lose their appeal, While Brussels and gravy both congeal; Next to cranberry sliced turkey breast, M&S‘ superlative, depressing best. Gold roast tatties soon turn cold, When cracker jokes seem too old. It‘s hard to swallow Christmas pud When welling tears threaten to flood Down reddened cheeks onto the cloth, To soak into the Starter broth. Just count the hours to Boxing Day, When all this gaiety‘s packed away. Christmas dinner‘s not much fun, When it‘s cooked just for one.

2006 54


STAFFORDSHIRE INTROSPECTIVE

Photographs: Reproduced by kind permission of : Alder Tree, Seighford - F Waterfall Cover: Trees Beside The Rising Brook - S Spiers

Designed & Published in a large font where possible by Rising Brook Writers Printed by John Leigh Printers, Aston Fields, Stafford Paper used does not contain chlorine bleach

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RISING BROOK WRITERS

A Reflective Collection Featuring The Works Of Twelve Staffordshire Poets

Rising Brook Writers Community Workshops

ISBN 978-0-9557086-1-9 Rising Brook Writers : A voluntary charitable trust RCN: 1117227 www.risingbrookwriters.org.uk 56


Staffordshire Introspective