Poems by Sue Beckwith

When I was four
Is it blue?
City of Bells
Beauty or the Beast
Messing about on the river
Bringing in the day
Ballet Attitude

When I was four

The ambulance stopped outside the house. The doors opened into the sun and from the halo of light around the steps, my Mum came down and the air left my lungs ... she had been gone weeks or days or forever. She was cradling a new baby, a brother... not that I knew what a brother meant, I had a sister and that seemed to be enough seeing as I was the only one who knew what she was talking about. And he slept hours and hours without moving or crying, he just slept. And then we were five.

all gathered
daisy chains and buttercups
a button on a dress

Published Presence Issue 74 November 2022

Is it blue?

sea and sky merge
on a seagull's wing
tilted into the wind

I'm shown another colour today – turquoise edged with cream – yesterday slate verging on green – last week grey tinged with sulphur – shades borrowed from sunrise, sunset, the moon, thunder clouds, mist and rain.

a seagull looms
out of the sea fret
the pier emerges

Published Time Haiku 56 August 2022


white egret
the silent elegance
of the incoming tide

following the tractor
seagulls wheel and whirl
up the hill into cloud

distant wind farm
out on the turquoise horizon
clouds gather

evening rain
a song thrush
circles the same refrain

Published Time Haiku 55 February 2022

City of Bells

Every morning a whole Sunday of bells
wake the day – bell on bell over tiled roofs
peal over peal across the Ponte Vecchio
long echo of bells – resonating even in the secret places.

In the thick of this cacophony the street market
gets under way under the loggia – fruit and veg piled high
a pyramid of melons prodded and turned
sniffed like a fine wine, and ripest chosen

A bearded stallholder looks on with Neptune's stern gaze
as Michelangelo's David, jacket slung over his shoulder
– profile classical Roman, sun-kissed curls –
nods to the Botticelli girls, all skinny jeans and waves.

The old men in the shade gesticulate their daily news
each louder than their neighbour - never quite outdoing
the seven bells of Giotto's Campanile at eleven thirty
– now just a reminder that lunch is soon.

The afternoon bells then ring one hour before sunset
at sunset and one hour after sunset to close the day
– bell on bell – peal over peal – long echo of bells –
resonating still in the secret places.

Published Mole Valley Poets Anthology 'Memory' 2022

Beauty or the Beast

What does rhododendron honey tastes like?
we wondered as we listen to the choir of bees
warming up in the early May sunshine
tenor to mezzo-soprano amongst pale lilac
rhododendron flowers and shined leather leaves.

Is the taste as vanilla rich and woody
as the scent of the butter yellow flowers?
Or deep raspberry clean and pink?
Not for a moment could we guess
that it is the taste of honey madness.

No more than Charles Darwin's sister realised
her exotic specimen plants with their cloche
and pompom blooms were experts in the art
of survival of the fittest and over time have proven
beyond any doubt her brother's concept

their sturdy spread and sprawl of low branches
and dense canopy changing this woodland forever

included in artist Alison Carlier's Under a Canopy audio guide developed as an accompaniment to walks through the Rhododendron Wood on Leith Hill

Messing about on the river

club rowing cap
and a feathered fascinator
Henley Regatta

stretched to the limit
crumpled candy stripes
on his old rowing club blazer

coxless four
half a length in front
a dragonfly

rowers race past
a duck rides the wash
amongst champagne corks

4th prize in 11th Sakuhin poetry competition - Time Haiku newsletter November 2019

dark Monday morning
a commuter's unhinged stare
on the 7.45

published in volume 29.1 of Blithe Spirit January 2019

a hedge bristling
with flit and flutter
early sunshine

published in volume 29.2 of Blithe Spirit April 2019

Bringing in the day

The sun's slow setting snakes under the bridge and down the river. The church and towers of the city will soon be left behind in darkness as the scarlet mauve of dusk engulfs the eggshell blue of today's sky making room for the unhurried turn of stars in the night sky.

horses rest in harness
waiting for the harvest moon
work still to do

After The Scarlet Sunset by JMW Turner
Published in Time Haiku Volume 49 February 2019

March winds
the tip-tilt
of a magpie's tail

one thousand and one
stories in the night sky
tell me more

Ballet Attitude

Saturday mornings I stared at the reproduction of Degas' beautifully dressed and elegant ballerinas hung on the wall of the church hall. All white tulle and ribbons, so effortlessly graceful, all in step – timeless and charming.

battered ballet pumps
ribboned edges fraying

Our class limps and bumps along to the solid piano playing of Mrs Dunsford, her bosom bouncing in time, much more in time than me and my fellow students.

out at the front
a future prima donna
dances to her own tune

Published in Time Haiku Volume 50 August 2019