Issue 29: Frances Presley







trace my distances

                                                                      in the tracery


                       the spaces between


 open-work                                                    quatrefoil




          four                              leaf       





in the rood screen    

                                                           tiny stems


coralline          wrack


               holdfasts                             to the apex



                      are you still holding fast?










     Hold Fast Body Art Tattoo Parlour



                           she wolf


                 stares                   out


                         breast scar











why was the central panel

of the crucifixion a break -

ing point


now it’s just a black cloth

in the reredos


Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene

— figures wrenched away

              were they too prominent?



when we do not own                      our bodies

cannot go about our                          lawful

bodies ourselves

cannot make our                               choices


 sisters in America tell me

 this is my body and                          not his



in the missing frame

become the frame






St Mary the Virgin


27 June 22


after Roe v Wade overturned









Lady Chapel



follow         moving

lines            into      their

drawn         vertical


                                  out of the shadow

                                  of the eagle lectern


sideways  brush

                     of whitewash stroke

       roughness   in the stone

            indents       of eye


this                soft wing

curtain         of rain



in                  a plume

a nib            for brown ink


hold            feather

walk           stains







15 July 22


My dearest Geraldine


You are often on my mind, in ways you can't imagine - serious and humorous.  We were in Minehead recently (it will always feel like home to me) and I went to St Michael's mediaeval church, where I used to go with my mother.  I often think of her there and I also thought of you. 

I came across a quotation from Judges - probably the only worthwhile bit: ‘And it came to pass, when (Achsah) came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs’.  I like the idea of nether springs on nether edge.

I also noticed, for the first time after all these years, the rather bawdy mediaeval angels holding up the altar table.  I hope you like them.

Lots of hugs and kisses

from your loving coz, Frances







20 Jul 2022, 01:03

Dear Coz,

Thank you for your sweet reply and for the nether springs on nether edge - yes there are many springs and wells around Sheffield and my favourite road name is Hangingwater Road - it just never fails to delight me.  (…)


Oh those angels! Wow! They really are something else, to see female angels is a rarity and when you do they are usually twee and modest little things but these are raunchy crazy Jane angels. I love them.  I've cropped them and got rid of the crucifix. Think I'll put them on Face Book next weekend - they are too good to keep to ourselves.  Keep an eye out for them. 


Well, time to try and sleep in the heat,

Much love,


Geraldine xxx 




[Frances Presley was born in Derbyshire, of Dutch-Javanese and English parents, in 1952.  She grew up in Lincolnshire and Somerset, and lives in London.  Recent work includes Ada Unseen (Shearsman, 2019) concerning Ada Lovelace, mathematician and computer visionary, part of a collaboration with Tilla Brading.  Black Fens Viral refers both to Covid and to the Markov chain text generator, and the first poem is a Literary Pocket Book by Steven Hitchins (2021).  Collected Poems 1973-2020 was published in two volumes by Shearsman in May 2022.  Presley has written essays and reviews, especially on innovative British women poetsHer work is in the anthologies Infinite Difference (Shearsman, 2010), Ground Aslant: radical landscape poetry (Shearsman, 2011), Out of Everywhere2 (Reality Street, 2015) and Fractured Ecologies (EyeCorner, 2020).  She contributed to a collection of poetic autobiographies, Cusp (Shearsman, 2012) and its London based companion volume, Clasp (Shearsman, 2015).]

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