Issue 30: Stuart Pickford
Flat water, the Ouse wasn’t a river.
It barely moved, leaked its heavy name.
On the far bank, she watched hares, boxing.
Sometimes one screamed like a child.
She couldn’t escape due to the ditches.
Standing by the Forty-Foot Drain, she stared
at the bulk of the sky weighing down,
wrapping over the meres and wetlands.
As a kid, she dressed up to be a weather girl,
her all-time dream: chipper, slit shirt,
sweeping her hand over the Dales; winking,
If you’re straying far, take an umbrella.
Grown up, she refused to swivel about
to flutter her eyes at the gaze of men,
hair drooling down one naked shoulder,
her voice rising for the high pressure.
She pored over maps of Tornado Alley,
emigrated to the High Plains of Nebraska,
welded a roll bar and skirt on her pickup,
spat on her hands, waited for the twisters.
Now, satellite displays on the dash, she chases
dust devils, stovepipes, the whooshing roar
of the finger of God; she stalks hurricanes,
the spinning squall around that terrible eye.
If she makes it to the clear, calm centre,
she stops, leans on the bonnet, breathes,
perhaps recalls the warmth of a hare’s form,
sees leverets, born with their eyes open.
Stonefall Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery
The first time? The evening I spooked
a barn owl—light on dark. Instead
of running home, I looped around,
opened the gate. The writing swam
before my eyes as I read your ages—
all about twenty. Next time, a mum
pushing a buggy, singing to her child.
Something made me take the turn.
The miles shrank to nothing. Standing
before you, I let the quietness in.
On the road, I imagine your streets
in St John, Toronto, Palmerston, Macklin,
telegraph poles drawing out the distance,
square shopfronts and you, Paul, strolling
from the factory into afternoon sun.
Here, the traffic’s backed up, madness;
then in a few paces—rows of alders,
my footprints in the damp grass.
Portland limestone lends order
to that night, two of you jumping
before impact. Sometimes this place
shows the life spared for me as I see you,
Joe, on your parents’ farm in Manitoba:
the prairies run to the horizon; you bend
and rub the corn between your fingers.
Stuart Pickford is the recipient of an Eric Gregory award. His first collection, The Basics, was published by Redbeck Press and shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. His second collection, Swimming with Jellyfish was published by smith/doorstop. Stuart lives in Harrogate and taught in a local comprehensive school.
Copyright © 2023 by Stuart Pickford, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author