Mole Valley Poets meet monthly to celebrate, discuss and share poetry in all its many forms and expressions.
With Seen but Not Heard as the theme for this anthology, the diversity and range of our work is represented in these pages. From sonnets to free verse and haiku, the subject matter ranges across memory, seasons and childhood.
Copyright for the poems in this anthology resides with authors.
|Seen but not heard||Tony Earnshaw|
|The Scream||Tony Earnshaw|
|the cenotaph of dreams||A A Marcoff|
|stone: garden||A A Marcoff|
|sun||A A Marcoff|
|butterfly||A A Marcoff|
|snails||A A Marcoff|
|haiku & tanka||A A Marcoff|
|The Lost Voice||Sylvia Herbert|
|The Kitchen Fire||Michael Lane|
|Hay in Wartime||Michael Lane|
|Walk in the Woods by A Dog||Michael Lane|
|Money box||Helen Overell|
|Mr M||Helen Overell|
|Seen and not heard||Marilyn Hammick|
|The Artist's Wife||Marilyn Hammick|
|Class of 96.||Dympna Pyle|
|Water baby||Dympna Pyle|
|A lesson in longitude – Greenwich||Sue Beckwith|
|Following a pattern||Sue Beckwith|
|Haiku & small poems||Sue Beckwith|
|Café Silence||Sharon Williams|
|Contributors||Mole Valley Poets|
In trouble again, and covered in mud,
a graze on his left knee where the tarmac tore it;
he wasn't taking the hill too fast, just hit a stone,
he never saw it.
Showing off to all his mates, not wanting to seem too slow,
he floated swiftly through the air till the hard road stopped the flow.
He knows his Mum won't understand, will just see all the damage
but articulating all his needs is more than he can manage
so when she asks,
as ask she will,
why go so fast down such a hill?
he shakes his head, he can't explain;
he shuts her out
and spreads the pain;
and of his insecurity,
his need, his pride, his fears,
he cannot speak a word.
She sees the grazes and the dirt.
The rest remains unheard.
TV baseball games in American bars.
Songs being sung in neighbouring cars.
Pleas made with passion in a force nine gale.
The harnessed power in a well trimmed sail.
Dog walkers calling their charges outside
while I sit by the window pretending to write.
The wind stirring distant trees
And making patterns from distant leaves.
The vapour trails from high flying jets,
(Though the aircraft make the loudest noise yet).
In shopping malls the ubiquitous mime.
The ravages of passing time.
The desert where the trees once stood.
The devastation after a flood.
The shrinking ice cap as it melts.
The way we play the hand we're dealt.
The tear tracks through the muck and grime.
The ravages of passing time.
Ears pressed into the side of the head
by the pressure of urgent palms, the rush
headlong across the bridge
is also ours.
The sea and sky retreat,
disturbed by the intensity of the passion.
Two boats float on a distant whirlpool
and all nature cries out in pain as we flee
the necessary end.
Behind us the minders,
dark and solid shadow,
their sinister substance a strange comfort
from the scream
no sound emerges.
You can't play cricket quietly,
it being necessary to challenge all the time,
and reinvent the rulesnext
door's garden is six and out, the flower bed's a four,
and once you've called out that you're 'in'
you can't go back for more.
The little ones bowl underarm.
They scream and cry with pain
when a clobbered ball heads straight their way
and they miss the catch again.
Big brother says that girls can't play -
they stand in the outfield and talk.
He argues when they say he's out,
he simply will not walk;
it's unfair, he's on 49,
he's on a roll, a record score;
there's no way he's going now.
That was never leg before.
The secret for an adult
seeking some repose
is to watch the cricket from the house
and keep the windows closed.
the unknown flower -
as the wind
as the miracle of mind
it is night:
ways into dreaming
in the shadow
our metaphysical grave -
pink shadow of a stone
that rolls slowly, slowly away
A A Marcoff published in Presence
earth draws moonlight into dust -
the night gripping, grave:
comes the ground of dawn,
& stone, here & there,
as light falls
into time - a golden rain:
a golden rain tree
binds the world
into the mind,
& branches out into silence,
that slow distant idea
of fire fading:
I am walking into a garden:
primrose: lavender: wood-chipping
scattered near a tree:
a rockery & the rough spread
of shrubs damp by broken
pathways: a sudden winter cherry:
then comes that bridge
out of Monet: I step
into a Japanese garden -
through time: light strikes
the structure of the rocks,
& a leaf falls into the pond:
moss, maples, mind:
this garden lies in the East of God,
a temple of water flaming,
of water & flame,
complex of light & moss,
& stone, stone,
A A Marcoff published in Weyfarers
A A Marcoff
A A Marcoff
A A Marcoff
the spring –
a golden butterfly
just a few crows
& nothing, nothing
but the land
The sound of wild geese in the shadow of the temple bell
lost & forgotten
amongst the grasses
the sun at last:
of a swan
watching kingfishers –
in a temple
of butterfly wings –
of the Budha
A A Marcoff
In the stillness of pre-dawn
The land lies quiet
With semi-dormant life
Poised for the coming day;
And now the sky pales,
Tinged with rose and gold.
The sun brings out the colour of the trees
As the world changes
Each moment a new miracle
I see church steeples
Rising through the mist
And lonely sheep like rocks upon the hill,
A jumble of earth-red roofs
Sits low beyond the copse,
Hemmed in by the grey strap of the road
Within these woods
Are myriad forms of life
Unknown, unheard, unseen.
An early crow wheels overhead,
Bound for the highway
Where new carrion waits.
Its soundless wings
In constant rhythmic motion
Carry it beyond my sight
Like a thought
Dissolving into oblivion
You brought me flowers
Looked at me and smiled.
"You'll soon be out of here.
Just rest, enjoy the view;
The town looks good today,
The rain all gone away".
My voice was low and weak,
I wanted you to listen
To my pleas for you to stay
And give me hope;
My need to hear you say
"I love you and I'll stay".
You had your own agenda.
You ticked me off your list,
Another bullet point deleted
In your neat mind, the next 'to do'
Already on your screen
Enticing you away.
You will tell them that you saw me
And that I looked all right
But hadn't much to say,
Pretending that you'd made my day
By striking attitudes,
Grandpa's sleeping soundly now,
He's in his favourite chair,
He's been like that all afternoon
And I think that it's unfair
That the television's out of bounds
And we must creep about
Just because he needs his nap
And he is old and stout.
We all know that he's very deaf;
He answers "yes" and "really?"
To everything we say to him
Although we speak quite clearly
And bring him cups of steaming tea
Which he lets go stone cold:
But we have to make allowances
And all be good as gold.
Grandpa watches us at play,
He lacks computer skills,
Yet likes to think he understands
And sends us for his pills.
When we get back the telly's on,
The programme is absurd,
But he only sees the action
For he cannot hear a word.
Somewhere there is a photo that I love
Which shows you in a teasing, happy mood;
Light plays upon your features from above,
Lips parted just the way they always would
When laughter was about to ripple through
But that expression's frozen on your face
And as always I look away it seems that you
Are waiting for some future time or place
When we shall know again that perfect bliss
That only souls in tune truly share,
A joy that goes beyond a gentle kiss
And with no other pleasure can compare.
I keep your picture hidden, for I fear
To see my love whom I no longer hear.
Aromatic notes of soot and smoke
Mingled with the smell of age-old damp.
Candle on the wash-stand, water in the pail.
Looking for the lavatory? Take the lamp –
Out in the dark by the backyard hens.
(Nineteen-forties; village in the fens.)
Underneath the pantiled catslide roof
The kitchen fire burned all year through.
Hot water bailed from its left-hand boiler,
Down-draught smoky when the east wind blew.
Toast on a toasting-fork held to the embers –
Sights and smells that a child remembers.
Out of the square blackleaded oven
(No thermostat to be adjusted)
Sacrament of summer Sunday dinner –
Chicken, plum pie and baked egg custard.
Cooked to an effortless perfection
Tasted today in recollection.
Under slow-moving fenland skies
They gathered August hay.
Women, old men, with a schoolboy
Holding the horse, which moved on to the order "Hold yer!"
Halted to "Whoa!"
Work done, pitchforks and hay aboard
They came back in the cart
From the horizonless fen
To the close-gathered village.
Years on, I puzzled.
"Whoa!" I understood,
But what, to the horse, did "Hold yer!" mean?
I decided it must have been
A traditional shout to the men on the cart
Receiving the pitched-up hay
"Hold On!" as the horse moved along the haycocks.
The horse had to be content with that
And learns to move on at the shout.
Met a man in the woods the other day
Without a dog
Went up and sniffed him, just to be sure.
Why should anyone want to walk in the woods
Unless they have a dog to take them?
Well, families with children, I can understand.
I watch them chatter along and I'd love to go too.
Then there are big groups in boots
Who go tramping
With a dog or two at the front (has to be at the front) -
That's best of all.
But to go for a walk in the woods by yourself:
the outstretched palm just the right
size for a big round penny,
the slow rise of the elbow
hampered by the red paint sleeve,
the click as the teeth parted
and the coin slid with a clunk
into the shiny dark brown
half man whose eyes gleamed blue-white;
a bold trident held upright,
draped robes, a shield of empire,
a millpond sea; and the cold
slide of bronze down a gullet
of gristle to a stomach
of misery lined with fear
chills my bones with one long ache
for home, for open stretches
of sand under high wide skies,
the sun fierce on antelope
tracks, lions' dens, elephants
free as a tall stride, distant
palm thudded drum beats, the song-
burst rumble of unshackled
laughter; the jangled stillness
jolts me, dislodges my tears,
shakes my shoulders with breathtight
sobs and grown ups find hankies,
toffees, whisk the stark blank stare
to a clanked silence alone,
out of sight; somehow the taste
of metal stays in my mouth -
sulphurous with an acrid
tang; the worn relief remains.
published in Magma June 2007
Skin-skimmed bone -
an involution of close-folded
wings above stepped ribs
arching from a backbone
made of threaded pebbles;
pelvis white as flint,
face to the wall,
knees drawn up,
the world shut out.
Yet when he calls her name,
stone is undone, she turns
her head towards him, eyes
deep shivered wells
fractured with light.
published in qarrtsiluni online magazine 2011
How these girls love to learn -
scarved heads bent over books,
numbers in rows, columns,
pencilled lines, neat courage
underlined in blueblack
ink - each drop guarded, eked
out - all of them adept
now in the market place;
the next step, forbidden
territory, calls on
diligence, abstract thought,
deducing the unknown -
algebra - we teach this
at our peril, the death
threats hiss in my pocket,
fisted to crumpled flame;
my flock of swallows waits,
we begin as always
with what we think we know -
apricots, figs - assign
symbols, equate harvest
with rainfall, solve simple
partnerships, chalk on board,
damp rag around my hand;
no notes, only the swoop
as thought soars when the link
takes hold, the spark ignites,
another world unfolds
as though pistachios
opened up to show sky
ablaze with mapped out stars
too numerous to count.
published in Other Poetry 2008 and Poetry South East Anthology 2010
He needed those bones once, Lord knows,
never thought for one moment
his ribs, backbone, skull would be
hung from a hook on a metal stand,
each one labelled, his hands, feet
fine-wired, pointing to the ground.
Back in the days when he had muscle,
sinew, a covering skin, a smile
gentle as leaf drift in autumn,
we would nod, pass the time of day,
and then his face grew thin, he faded -
no funeral, he had cut loose.
Medical research was what he wanted,
the advancement of science so yes,
him being in a school seems about right,
sending shivers down young spines,
widening eyes, but that look
in his empty sockets, that grin.
published in The Frogmore Papers March 2011
It's not noisy but Granddad barks Hush,
the football results are on.
I lino-slide into cupboard-door bows,
docking below the dresser.
West Bromwich Albion 1 Arsenal 2
Cross-legged, I'm eye to eye with the cargo
- Grandma's shoes, mouse traps,
Old Uncle's boot polish and brushes,
ones for putting on, ones for shining off.
Liverpool 1 Manchester United 1
Plymouth v Southampton late kick off
I place the boxes - Black Magic, Roses, Milk Tray -
on the pier, where grubby boards meet cracked
floor edges. I squeeze them open
Newcastle 3 Birmingham City 2
check their load –jewels from Mummy's evening dresses,
mother of pearl, diamante, silver studs from Granddad's posh shirts,
pink stars from my first cardigan.
Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Preston North End 1
A cheer from the kitchen, and then a shout
Quiet, now I've missed one.
After Scottish Division Two we'll have
tea at the big table: winkles, cockles,
Hamilton Academical 1 Partick Thistle 4
bread and butter, slippy peach slices
and, if I've been good, an ice cream wafer.
In the afternoon we walk across the dunes.
Blackthorn, wild plum, sprinkles of elderflower
line the paths to the beach. Sand sprays my feet
like wholemeal flour drifting from sieve to bowl.
The shore is empty with other latecomers,
a few gulls fuss over rubbish, a dog chases waves.
My toes curl up and down sand ridges drummed
to an ancient tune by the muscle of water.
Further on we step through a fluther of jellyfish,
saucer-sized bodies like purple doilies,
their milky full stomachs sinking into the sand.
We tread carefully –do jellyfish dream?
Next morning, after our swim, your painterly eye
spots desiccated discs of moon jelly, or
more properly, Aurelia Auritea,
already merging with the shoreline mosaic.
At the Museo Picassa Malaga
the artist's wife and I hold
each other's gaze.
Tawny lips, freshly washed hair,
pale skin; she rests composed
in a swansdown robe.
I pause in the thick doorway
of her white room, knowing
she won't notice
my grey roots, untamed curls,
sun flushed face, all this creased
sweat stained cotton.
In those few moments
the light between us sings
about being there alone.
IM Beryl Bainbridge 1933-2010
If I could I would ask about
the bullet marks on the stairs,
the German lover when she was fourteen,
shaking out plot with a trip to the deli.
Did she mistake the Queen for Vera Lynn,
invite men to join her under the piano,
carry a bone handled knife?
Instead I read her oeuvre
for how to observe, edit
get the tum-te-tums in the right place.
Lessons for when thoughts spring
like the cry of a startled bird.
Collecting dust above the cookery books,
arranged in unresisting rows with wide
conspiratorial grins and artless looks
of innocence, the Infants of Gorse Ride
confront the lens - the only time that day
they'll all sit still. One clutches at his shirt;
another tilts her head; one turns away.
Their teacher stands possessive and alert.
Such photos sit in other homes enshrined
in silver frames or stuck with sellotape
to bedroom walls. In each shot now, behind
our children's forms, we see in outline shape,
alive with smiles they'll never smile again,
the faces of the infants of Dunblane.
Through the wettest months since records began
we squelched through the waterlogged land
sodden and sombre,
clay-clogged and leaden, our skies slaty grey.
As streams turned to torrents in spate
you swam in dark waters.
Securely encased in your water-tight world
you wriggled and kicked, unaware,
As your limits expanded you lifted our sights,
a rainbow of light through the rain,
Snugly afloat in your fluidised bed
you wallowed in water-borne ease -
till purple, pulsating,
you plunged like a seal through the sluice-gates of life,
leaving tears drowned by laughter and love,
No blockheads, these; yet how could they resist
this software package, programmed to upset
their ordered lives? This tiny floppy disk
is packed with earth-transforming data, yet
appears so wafer-thin. Did they foresee
this insubstantial filament, so slim and light,
so fine and fragile, frail as filigree,
was charged with power as strong as dynamite?
Age-old yet ageless, her scrunched-up face inspects
their gaze with grimaces and smiles. Small hands
unclench. Defenceless, helpless and perplexed,
she trusts them as her new-found world expands.
As tremors wake this tiny tyrant, they'll
sense shocks that rock the seismographic scale.
Slumped on the sofa
you sat there silent.
The room resounded
with talk and laughter,
hopes and plans –
jokes about genes,
lists of silly names.
While we rejoiced,
you scooped the cream,
eyed the left-overs,
fingered the crumbs.
Lick the plate, we laughed,
little knowing that the plate
was already licked clean.
If we know what time it is
here, where we are, and
there, where we were,
we know our place.
We have no idea of what time
it is, don't much care where
we are, we are probably lost,
we only know we are happy.
So, all that's left to know
is where we want to be,
which seems a lot to ask
of this time and place.
Five AM unravels
picks at threads
ready to re-knit
my daytime shawl
impossible to escape
a web so intent
on holding me
a close up of a wall
colour flaked and staccato
'The Kings Speech'
the sun is setting -
now is not the time to focus
coming out into
the cold from the cinema
- reality bites
wake to the insistent
light and quiet of snowfall
- peace on a workday
a frog disturbed
by the spray of a hose
gleams green and spring clean
sun so low, our shadows
huge against the wall
bright as a button
on the snowman's hat
a robin fluffs up
still now laced and spun in ice
the silver birches blur
into the snow - faintest
sparkle of sunshine
on a sky full of winter
an oak — solid shade
of purple tweed twisted
green and grey
A seemingly endless string
- in reality only three -
threaded along the long curve
of beach, hung with kite surfers,
freeze frame and static
against the breeze and turquoise sea
through ten pages
a line has been
written fifteen times
I had to cut it out
it wasn't what
the poem was about
it's not there anymore
that moment, that place
is etched ink-deep
sometimes, some things
cannot be erased
In St Martin in the Fields Crypt Café,
The keep smiling sympathetically
The ladies who take tea.
Ladies – please, I am sitting on my own,
Happily writing poetry!
the girl took the Queens Shilling
became a warranted officer,
wore the uniform,
the woman returned the handcuffs and key,
walked out of the revolving door.
And left 30 years later,
Sue Beckwith works in software sales & marketing translating the technical into everyday language and enjoys and strives for writing that transforms the everyday into poetry.
Tony Earnshaw is a Dorking based poet and playwright, interested in different forms of writing and a believer in the benefit of feedback in the creative process.
Marilyn Hammick writes (and reads) poetry while travelling and at home in France; seeking words and form that translate the ordinary into wider meanings.
Sylvia Herbert is a retired Modern Languages teacher who has lived in Surrey since 1970. She is a founder member of Mole Valley Poets and writes poetry for pleasure.
Michael Lane has published a number of poems in "The Betjemanian" and "The Countryman" and has won poetry competitions. He finds his inspiration in the local countryside.
A A Marcoff gets much inspiration for his poetry from walking by the River Mole.
Helen Overell works part-time in education. Her first collection "Inscapes & Horizons" is published by St Albert's Press.
Dympna Pyle lived in Dorking for 20 years while her children were growing up, and returned three years ago. She spent her professional career teaching English, and now works part-time as a CAB adviser.
Sharon Williams is a trainer who specialises in conflict management. She is currently studying for a BSc in Clinical Hypnosis. This is her first publication of poems.