Two Poems by Mark Connors


We’re in Scarborough. You’re the first one up, nipping for a paper. You’re wearing an unpleasant brown polo shirt mum got you from the catalogue. It accentuates your hardened gut. Everyone you pass smiles back at you. They always do. You get talking to someone about something. He finds you odd at first, your ease at slipping into lives for just a moment. But you’ll mark him with your levity, your charm and affability and you’ll move on before he wants you to. You buy The Daily Express. We don’t understand.  I like to get my news from the other side too, you say. You comment on the headline to the man behind the counter. On the way back to our digs, you get talking to a woman with a yapping highland terrier. You’ve been a postman for years but dogs still don’t like you. You walk back through the door as if nothing has happened.

I Like Birds

My father was a postman.
He asked a woman
if she would save him envelopes
from letters her sister sent from Ceylon.

He brought them home to me
so I could soak stamps off.
I didn’t care if they were franked:
brown-capped babbler,
crimson-fronted barber,
Legge’s flowerpecker,
white-faced starling.

I made up calls for all of them,
me, a precocious virtuoso of exotic birdsong.

Mark Connors is a poet and novelist from Leeds. His poetry pamphlet, Life is a Long Song was published by OWF Press in 2015. His first collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. His second collection, Optics, was published by YAFFLE in 2019. His third collection is due out later in 2021.

A Poem by Janet Dean

Watching World in Action With My Dad

I never knew he could fry a chop,
I’d only ever seen him pour bacon fat
over lacy eggs turning their yellow caps
milky white. We sat together watching
wars unfold; it didn’t matter that my mind
hadn’t mapped the territory, I saw
the girl running down the road.

Young days seem long, things happen;
in less than a decade he’d gone but
every milestone since has been marked
by images and conversations I shared
with him. And now my brother, whose mind
has crumpled, tells the clipboard lady
that he worked in the Ambulance Room
at the pit. But he didn’t, that was our Dad.

George Dean on his way to work in The Ambulance Room of Grimethorpe Colliery, early 1970s

Janet Dean was born in Barnsley and lives in York. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, commended in The Poetry Society Stanza competition and featured in the Northern Poetry Library’s Poem of the North. Her poems have been published by Valley Press, Templar, Paper Swans, Strix, The Morning Star, among others. She writes fiction as Janet Dean Knight, her debut historical novel The Peacemaker, set in Yorkshire mining communities, was longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Prize in 2017 and published in 2019 by Top Hat Books.

A Poem by Louise Warren

The Cartographer’s Last Day

He knows the place, the crop
between the shallow hills,
at the parting of a cart track
or on a cliff’s narrow ledge.
Each journey has a cost.

Barbed wire, brambles, a horsefly’s sting,
his arms threaded with scarlet,
the juice of sloes, wild damsons, plum,
blood, his white hair invaded by leaves and burrs.
This is his lot.

Once, upended by a stile
and full length upon the grass, he found an orchid.
A tiny slip of a thing, and never said a word.
Others have tried to follow him on his wild scramblings,
searched the fields at dawn but found nothing.

He knows the source,
the lip of a well, buried beneath nettles,
a chapel felled into a wood
where he eats his lunch, back against the wind.
He sees ghosts, but never marks them on his map.

This is a time before satellites,
when people found their way through the world
by marking it, pushing through
waist high in bracken.
He pushes on and down into the valley
where the green covers his head like the sea.

First published in A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo,
Cinnamon Press 2012

Louise Warren was born and grew up in the West Country and now lives in London. Her first collection A Child’s Last Picture of the Zoo won the Cinnamon Press debut poetry competition and was published in 2012. A pamphlet, In the scullery with John Keats, also published by Cinnamon, came out in 2016. Her poems have been widely published in magazines including Ambit, The Butchers Dog, Stand, Poetry Wales and Rialto. In 2018 she won first prize in the Prole Laureate Poetry Competition with her poem The Marshes which appears in her new pamphlet, John Dust, illustrated by the artist John Duffin and published in 2019 by V.Press.

Louise’s father

Louise writes that “He was very much a west countryman and worked as a Surveyor for the Ordnance Survey, a job he loved … his love of the outdoors is evident in this poem.” She has very happy memories of her father, whose birthday was on 17 April. Good Dadhood has pleasure in celebrating it with Louise here today.

A Poem by Jenni Wyn Hyatt

Balancing Act

I still see you now, standing behind the counter
in your shop coat, with your eye on the scales,
deducting a copper or two from the price
for the poor, regaining it from the rich.

I can still see the columns of figures
so neat and accurate in your ledger,
your unfailing grasp, not only of numbers,
but of economics and politics, far
exceeding mine. You were not much older
starting work as a grocer’s delivery boy
than I was going to the Grammar School.
I try to imagine you, your face pale
under your flat cap, your frail body
battling with the bicycle’s heavy frame.

After university I became
a teacher; you both thought it would be easier
than the life of a nurse or a small town grocer.
My ledgers were mark books, attendance registers,
the many pointless records governments demanded,
my customers often recalcitrant.
As time went on I found my satisfaction
in helping students who were disadvantaged
to realise potential they scarcely knew they had –
trying, just like you, Dad, to balance the scales.

Jenni Wyn Hyatt was born in Maesteg but now lives in Derbyshire. She writes serious and humorous poems, also short forms such as haiku. Her father,
Edgar Williams, 1905 – 1965, worked as a grocery assistant, grocery manager
and wages clerk before finally owning his own shop.  

See also Jenni’s poem ‘You walk me on your feet’ which featured in a Special Edition of Good Dadhood in 2020

Edgar Williams, 1905 – 1965