Poetry from Anne Caldwell
Anne grew up in the north-west of England and now lives in West Yorkshire where she lives with her son. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies – Poet’s Cheshire (Headland) and The Nerve (Virago) and in three collections by Cinnamon Press. She has completed an MA in writing poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. She performs all over the UK, and has won a first collection award from Cinnamon Press. You can find her at annecaldwell.net.
We loved the blue, that clear space, day after day.
We loved the sunlight, sharpness and heat.
The world was etched on our retina.
But soon the trees began
to shrivel through lack of water.
We dreamt of mackerel skies; of stratus, cirrus,
cumulonimbus – great banks of fog rolling in from a sea
we could barely remember. We longed for shade and thunder,
we longed for rain in all its forms: the kind that saturated
Gabardines; the kind that drums on Velux at night;
hail stones to bounce off taut umbrellas that lay unopened
in their stands. Our throats filled up and our pores
were sandpapered with dust. Each human being hung their heads
like goats on a Greek island at the end of summer.
Tongues swelled and language became a grunt,
or a series of guttural stops. It was all we could do to dodge
from alleyway to air
-conditioned house with our brims
pulled low and our sunglasses reflecting a land gone sour.
We tried to sing of our childhoods when we’d sprawled
on our backs in meadows wet with dandelions, created shapes
from clouds: chimney stacks, griffins and many-headed beasts.
But our children stared – blue and vacant as the sky.
Sunday Morning – Chichester Cloisters
The ringers take a rest, biceps pulsing with heat
and the weight of the ropes. There’s a lull,
full of that call to prayer to a god I no longer believe in.
The silence is bell-shaped and green.
I’ve time to contemplate millions of insects
in the oak spreading above my head:
pupating, living and dying in the shade.
A crow squawks. The bell ringers are ready.
Once lives were measured by chromatic scales
with a stumble in the middle. Now, my Sunday‘s
punctured by planes stacked up over Gatwick,
a ring-tone somewhere in my bag, car alarms
wailing for their owners, lines of metal bodies
rocking in the rush hour traffic.
Palmerston Quay, Aberdeen.
For my father
In nineteen sixty-nine you photograph
three submarines moored in the harbour.
Low in the water. Their crews are smoking woodbines,
eyeing up broad-shouldered, Orkney girls
queuing for the ferry, careless of danger.
A local man in a flannel suit and flat cap
stares hard at their German insignia.
The next day they’ve slipped back into the deep north.
The space is choked with open-decked trawlers.
You focus on the fleet with your Minolta
and a wide angle lens.
Your feet slip on blood and fish guts. The quay
is jammed with baskets of cod, whiting, towering ice crates,
stone-faced men in oil skins and rubber boots,
tattoos across their necks.
This is your Silver City. The love of your life.
Before Texan drawls and Stetsons. Before the oil rush.