Two Poems by Sarah James

The Nook and the Knack

Once my dad would have
looked out at my back garden,
sighed and grabbed his tools:
mowing, weeding, pruning,
smoothing rough edges.

The ivy’s spread started
with my shed. A light touch,
at first. One leaf, and then another,
until the string of hearts grew
clasping, clinging, binding.

Its hold rotted the timber,
collapsing the felt roof,
but the structure remained intact.
A green patchwork
created its own shelter.

Decades later, it’s still growing,
still homing woodlice, beetles and spiders:
sturdy against the rain,
glistening with sunlight
and entwining new flowers.

This year, an ivy heart
has reached the nook in our fir tree,
where I sit snug between sunlit
russet branches, nursing
my troubled thoughts.

The wrinkled bark reminds me
of Dad’s weathered skin,
the crook between his thumb and finger,
his firm grasp planting a sapling
or steadying a nail for his hammer.

The knack of tools and fixing
worked into every muscle,
his fingers grip as tightly as before,
only slower, less determinedly.
I’m not sure if he’s come

to admire a little wildness,
or no longer has the strength
to tackle it.

Our Time

Handed on now Dad’s reached seventy,
his clock takes its place at the top of our stairs.

Its system of pendulum, weights and cogs
beyond me, the ticking’s an agitation I can’t quite

white-noise. I’ll wind the piece as shown.
Not because I need the dial’s numbers

or the hands’ circling to pace my days.
But because it’s Dad’s time, his giving it

to me: the unending tic of its tock
spells the words we feel but can’t speak.

                             

                

Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her collections include plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press), shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Awards, and The Magnetic Diaries (Knives Forks and Spoons Press) highly commended in the Forward Prizes. Although she hasn’t inherited her father’s love of gardening or clocks, she enjoys time outside, walking, cycling and exploring nature. Her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk.

Sam Browne – by Angela France

Brasso-silky fingertips, a metal tang in the throat;
tiny circles on the buckle and tongue-tip between my teeth

to guard against marks on the leather. He smiles
at my effort, shows me how he buffs to perfection

and I watch him thread the strap under an epaulette,
fasten the buckles so it sits high on his waist,

his jacket smooth beneath it and close on his wide chest.
I breathe my dad as he straightens his cap over his eyes.

He takes as much care with a security guard’s uniform;
irons a shirt, makes knife-edge creases on trouser legs

with wet cloth under a sizzling iron, polishes each button
to mirror the sun. He reaches for the clothes brush

from a hook by the door, kept for rebel dog hairs,
turns and laughs loud to see his Sam Browne

a perfect fit on my teenage hips. I scowl, flounce
through the door, the belt snug and heavy on my pelvis.

I don’t remember when I saw it last,
tarnished and cracked for lack of army discipline;

Tan leather and the smell of metal polish bring it to mind
with broad shoulders, strong hands, a sad falling in.
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First published in Hide (Nine Arches Press, 2013)

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Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals and has been anthologised a number of times. Her publications include ‘Occupation’ (Ragged Raven Press, 2009), ‘Lessons in Mallemaroking’ (Nine Arches Press, 2011) and ‘Hide’  (Nine Arches Press, 2013).  Angela teaches creative writing at the University of Gloucestershire and in various community settings as well as working for a local charity. She runs a reading series in Cheltenham, ‘Buzzwords’.