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In winter she went to war with the weather
breaking black ice under a firm boot.

In spring she pulled the hat down over her eyes
Rested in the shade of tingling greens.

In summer she fought her way desperately out of a trap
Covered in rashes and scratched by sunbeams.

In autumn the calm came, relief in the curl
and the sinking of things into mist.

J.S.

As the Day Grows Dim

As the day grows dim I think of the stone under me:
                the boiling earth in her beginning,
                the cold, loveless chasms of space,
                the liquid ejections that, from passion,
                became wisdom as magma aged and faded
                smoothed by the comfort of the new dawn breeze,
                and before that the blind constant course of waters
                feeling their way south, always yearning
                to rest by a splintered bough.

As the day grows dim I think of the river before me:
                that which began in abstract,
                a gaseous theory recited by spheres in the sky,
                plumped by circumstance until clouds
                were ripe to fall, then crashing in some
                deluge soothing bare tortured rock;
                swallowing deserts without favour or prejudice,
                dooming the surface to a destiny incomplete -
                the tides can never return home.

As the day grows dim I think of the pine above me:
                an assortment of particles
                that collected in the dust
                learning to breathe, anchoring a home,
                the roots slow and sure imbibing hushed waters
                and loamy silent treasures deep
                building the bark that guards the secret,
                a fortress for life upholding the intricate.

As the day grows dim I catch the corvidae watching me:
                from their positions perched and perfect,
                a mastery of blood and breath
                seeking heat from movement in that
                one dark roving eye blinking a mirror
                to the shallow world and its forces,
                not even thinking yet already knowing,
                waiting, watching, warned
                                                                and away.

J.S.

communist poet

is it a statement i’m trying to make when i purposefully forget to capitalise my ‘i’s?
have i become a communist of words?
am i no more than the verbs that i type?
are all letters equal? (are some more than others?)
does punctuation matter -
i think the answer to that is yes.

even when you get it wrong…
the dimension shift is quite substantial?
now i’ve confused you; 
go back four steps.

back to these questions
that in poems don’t need marks
because all a poem really is is a series of ‘I’s 
all asking the unanswerable question.

J.S.

These Trying Times

i watched the city crawlers & wondered:
what life was like for the sea-slum dogs.
((about the time of the TechRevival)) 
humanity faced an enemy bolder than before »

the waters were taking the land.
millennia ago the old farms would have suffered -
((i would like to say it was that simple)) -
but now there are:
no lonely homesteads poking from vast puddles/
hills and trees don’t appear mystical from a wastage mirror
spattered with ripples/

needles and spikes and harsh things made of glass
all clustered ((unlike any forest)) plague the pools:
cutting it in blocks - placed - ungrown from any 
mortal seed in earth/
birthed from that infinite rising capacity
((not ambition admirable/dignified daring))
that infests us* as we look & seek to correct.

i watched the city crawlers & wondered:
what life was like for those creatures
humble enough & content in mind 
to feed no family but their own.

J.S.

I Don’t Hate Exams

there’s a collection of notes 
half-flapping around, above me 
to the side, turning little corners in their short life
upwards, curling in the stuff of lavish summer
and each little note contains a bright red point
and the several necessary scrawls of black ink, hurried,
that edge me on through the days to the hours in lines
and the exam papers and the silent nervous shuffle of pages
as we look over our small dooms;

the devil’s in the wording,
each question flipped and twisted
like a cryptic crossword clue (I never get those)
spun on its head to strain the brain and train us 
while we’re fragile and insecure in being young, so 
afraid of what might come.

i don’t hate exams,
but i want them at least to be easy
for those that learn their shit and bother 
to credit their teachers with some time at least,
it just feels a bit like Brutus when you stifle your 
summer spirit that wants to fling you out of open windows
for the turning of another page
for more words, wirds, wyrds, werds, 
to learn, lirn, lyrn, lern, 
but the fuckers that are supposed to 
smile and say “Welle Donne” 
instead find your paper in amongst the heap
whilst they too are sitting in, blanketed by the bitch of all heat
and your essay-length answer is marked by a glancer
who shits on your plan and fucks your ambition
by sending back proof that they abuse their position.

i don’t hate exams if they’re marked
by people made out of real-life brain that actually
sit and ignore their sweaty irritation 
for the sake of their own professional obligation
and think a bit deeper than mark-scheme observation
because, y’know, god forbid that there are some smart kids
who deserve a shot at achieving what they want
who reinforce it with hours and haurs
who build it up in towers and tauers

we can’t all be like you, Gove, a turtle up a wooden post
but if i ever get as high as you by heck i’m gonna raise a toast
to verbal exams, examiners with ears, kids with pride
in place of inherent fears when their pens don’t work and their
answers are too long, the devil’s in the wording, it’s true, 
but being thorough shouldn’t mean I’m wrong. 

J.S.

Light Poem

There are gradients and points of light alike that hush and wake us
through window streams. My street lamp I won’t look at.
It is direct. It addresses me
in an amber burst and fuzz of glowing edge whilst little spears strike out
from the centre to cut the telegraph in two
or mimic a small star. These lights, unlike stars, have purpose;
They switch on, switch off, at regular times
set by some abstract hand in a control box,
and in some cases (in winter, in the dark)
these lights are my alarm.
Flick on, flick off.

J.S.

Only Real When Shared

Even now, you are the judgement
On my shoulder, an offering hand
Palm open and willing, always seeming to give
Whilst always managing to take
Without asking.

You made me a charm for my neck,
For when things were hard,
For when times were tough,
Torn from a tree that cracked in a storm -
I should, by your reason and faith,
Be in need of it now;
I threw it in a shallow lake.

I’d like to be free of it, of you.
By the palm on the shoulder and the charm on the neck
I am weighted forever with those years
Spent on you and your myth.
Decoding the revolution
For a world we barely understood.

I am bitter but not old,
and there is so much passion
I can’t pour into you,
Earth-prophet, shoemaker,
Purveyor of the darkest blues.

Live, and pass the world by forever
Cursing at the why, the answers are not
Under a burrow or beyond the pressing sky,
but in the hearts of strangers
Whom we brush quietly alongside
And hope for acceptance and risk with our love
Again and again until we die.

J.S.

Little Leaping Light

Little leaping light
Gone from the grasses,
You are iron in my chest
Pulling at each action;

Where once you shadowed me
In light now you follow behind life,
For when I pick out the spaces
You no longer fill I am reminded -

The brevity of a small mind
Never matches its biggest love
That dances from soft eyes
or an ever-inquisitive nose.

When once you shadowed me
I fall now in your darkness,
The littlest leaping light
Gone to settle in the grasses.

J.S.

Pitch

The sky is grey and warm,
just a smog hiding
the true blue that suffers
with blood at dusk,
and out of the great mountains rises
a furious pitch piercing

the vale - singular, held up
to the heights where it echoes,
crashes the sound
across the crag
and bursts above the tops;

I think it is a thin song,
clear and clean,
cold and cosmic,
perhaps a perched voice
alone on a precipice -
it has the feeling of sheerness
that if it fails some awe will
drop;

the weight of silence
bearing down upon
wings and water -
both will shatter
beauty over pebbled riverbeds;

it wavers with the weight,
knows its own mystic cosmos,
and the trembling breath in the tone
causes the leaves to question
their love for the cypress tree;

I sit and wait for the world to stop.

J.S.

Under Stars

My white boot thuds: sends up
an easy shoot in low gravity.
It tingles in the weightless space
before my widening eyes.

So here we are
under stars in a tranquil sea;
I am drowning in big humility.
Here is the barren ocean
of dust, of dreams, and

Mine is the only heart thumping,
the only blood flowing
the sole mind knowing.

It’s much like a textbook desert,
though infinitely different whilst I
stand looking. Cutting the uni-
-verse in two, the great invisible
Axis shifts and my purpose is
Reconsidered.

Suddenly I am the riddle.
Philosophers debate existence.
What matters my geometric boot
if not a single eye will ever testify?

I am one with the dust; I see it,
it sees me. We both tumble,
meaningless in (absent) air.
I keep forgetting.

I rotate to anchor my eyes
on something safe, something
stable.

There.

Whirling blue, semi-spherical
distance (bulbous with life)
making its way around.
Soon it will sink and I will be
alone save for that blinding star afar.

The depression stirs deeper
than fear in my core
but here also rises
the engulfing sickness of awe.
Turning to face that faint haven
I find I am a man no more.

J.S.