Two Poems by David Callin


Always


My father sang Always
as though he was handling
something delicate,

something his large hard hands,
agricultural,
might easily break,

so he sang gently,
wooing the song politely
out of its whorled shell.

His pitch was imperfect,
his ear was fallible,
his tenor less than certain,

and sometimes the tune skittered
like an ungainly beast
on too smooth a surface,

but he sang on, holding
that tune so carefully –
a humdrum melody

something like a psalm,
an efflorescence
of the working day.

My Father’s VE Night
(or ‘Victory in Salop’)


My father later denied
ever having told me
that on his VE night
he had pushed his bicycle home
all the way from Telford
back to the farm – he’d been
conscripted to the land,
digging there for Britain –
without ever quite managing
to get on and ride the thing.

Drink had been taken,
which does not sound like him –
I only ever saw
the occasional Mackesons
and the dutiful toasts at weddings –
but on this of all nights,
why would he not? I like
the image of him walking
his bike and himself back home,

like someone trying to reason
with a stiff and skittish horse,
or helping a wounded comrade,
a la Guns of Navarone,
who was saying go on, just leave me,
but would he? No, not likely.
Not a chance, old lad.
We’ll get you back to Blighty.

And I’m sure he told me that.
I’m almost sure he did.




David Callin, from The Isle of Man, explains that his father was a farmer and describes his own childhood on the farm as idyllic – for him and his sister, at least. Probably rather less so for their hard-working parents. His poem Always was previously published in Snakeskin and features in his first collection, also entitled Always, published by Dreich in 2020.

Three Poems by Susan Taylor

Two poems for my father, Harold Taylor

Easy does it

He worked with the soil
and with water
as well as wind and fire,
as an ordinary Lincolnshire farmer does,
the lift and the literal grind
of milling the grain
for hundreds
of head of stock.

It was a calling as natural
as his calling the cattle and sheep.
I was happy to walk
in the tread of his steps,
to gentle the beasts out of my way
when I fed them
at their mangers.
So, our life together was spent.

I remember him
walking the tilth with a hopper
strapped to him,
sewing out grass seeds
like an infinity sign on the air,
and scything
with the sweep and swoosh,
same rhythm as a man from way back.

Hand milking, morning and evening,
his voice rising
from the cowshed;
his baritone voice, just singing
in the comfort and shelter of cows.
The live warm milk eased out
for our table
and doting tortoiseshell cats.

And the lily shed;
my concern,
as a farm hand
stood with murring calves,
while he poured their essential share
into buckets,
a smooth stream
out of the churn.


Note from the poet: My calf rearing shed was called the lily shed because, when we took on the farm at a bitterly cold Lincolnshire Easter-time, we stored my mother’s Madonna lilies in there, before the weather was suitable to transplant them into the new garden.

Snow on the Dark Peak

He hardly ever wore gloves,
but I’ve raised a memory trace
of the time I held his hand
on a walk in thick snowfall.

He was wearing driving gloves,
the kind with string backs.
My connection to him,
awkward; the feel of pallid kid,

instead of the usual warmth
of his weathered brown palm.
So my first memory of his hands
is that climb on Kinder Scout

and my last memory of them
is seeing cold fingers threaded
each upon each, like lily buds
breaking over the end of his life.

Sandman

for Simon

Picture me on a beach with our children –
your children in newly liberated skins,
ready to play with you. Darling,

while you were away
we have run wild.

We have learnt to sculpt you out of sand.
Hold still – we are working on a way
to breathe the bones into you.


Easy Does It and Snow on the Dark Peak are both from Susan Taylor’s collection, A Small Wave for Your Form, published by Oversteps Books. Sandman was published in The Complete Bearded Stranger, Susan’s collection from Taxvs Press.


Susan Taylor began writing in her teens in the idyllic setting of her family farm in the Lincolnshire Wolds – Tennyson country. An ex-shepherd, she admits to having become something of a ‘turncoat’ now, with much sympathy for the plight of the wild wolf. She has eight published poetry collections, including ‘Temporal Bones’, published by Oversteps Books in 2106. Susan is a keen performer of her poetry and has developed and toured many collaborative poetry shows, including ‘La Loba – Enchanting the Wolf’ and ‘The Weather House’, which appeared as an Indigo Dreams Poetry Pamphlet in 2017.