Winter Showcase – December 2016

Thursday, 1 December 2016


Johanna Boal

Guest editor: Johanna Boal


Poems by  Moira Andrew,  Colin Bancroft, Angie Butler, Michael Docker, Effie Makepeace, Daphne Milne, David Prior and Maureen Weldon


• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases


Editor’s overview

When Sue asked me if I would like to select poems for the Winter Showcase, I was thrilled, knowing I would be reading so many wonderful poems.

What I did first was to read through all of the poems, making a note of the ones that made an impact on me. I then left them for a day or two, then went back to read the pieces again. It was not an easy task and it made me realise how difficult it must be for judges in poetry competitions.

There were some difficult choices to be made, nevertheless I told myself that it was me picking the poems and therefore it was my choice, no one else’s. I wish I could have chosen more poems , however I do hope you enjoy my selection.

Please scroll beyond the poems for my feedback.



Photograph by Chris Sims


The Owl


At first, I thought it was the alarm clock

That had woken me suddenly from sleep,

I reached across, still half slumbered, to stop

The discordant quarrelling of the beep.


Though I pressed the button, still it sounded

And in my haste I pushed it to the floor

And heard the battery pop out from its grounding

And clatter against the bottom of the door.


I settled back down into the darkness

And was almost lost again inside my dream,

When I was again jolted by the harshness

That sounded like some gothic horror scream.


I lay, tightly coiled, listening to my heart pound

As if it were some great drum upon the roof,

Fearing, yet wishing, to again hear the sound

So that I may be able to uncover the truth.


Then I heard it, a whistling distant train,

Wind howling through the house’s exposed rafters,

Some lost soul calling out a saviour’s name,

A high-pitched sudden gulp of laughter.


I ran to the window and looked outside

To see if I might find the source of the thing,

But the night was black and the stars spread wide

And in the air was the crack of a wing.


Colin Bancroft





Like love, grief is elemental.


It lingers in the air, clings

to you, gauzy as cobwebs

and every bit as sticky.  All but

invisible, its smell gives it away.

Corrosive as bleach, it’s toxic,

even in small doses.


Like love, grief is unfathomable.


It floats on the waves, scoops

up buckets of unstoppable tears,

throwing them at your cheeks.

Even then, it can put on a brave

face, mount white horses and

ride for broke.


Like love, grief is uncontrollable.


It rages like a fire storm, its

flames devouring everything

in its path.  It brands your skin,

grief-stricken widow, at one with

the body burning in the furnace,

ashes to ashes.


Like love, grief is fundamental.


It is rooted in the earth, wedded

to worms and creeping creatures,

open to needling rain, winds, the

balm of snow.   It safeguards its

sorrows, like fragments of bone,

yellow as pollen.


Like love, grief is absolute.



 Moira Andrew



Lust over a broken bike


How did he get those cuts on his index finger?

I ask

A detail reserved for lovers

Who have time

And permission

To inch their way along a body

Investigating its surface

Every scar


Bruise and burn

Asserting itself on skin.


We lean

Heads together

Fingers dirty

Kneeling over spokes and gears

In silence.

I get sawdust on my knees

I can smell him

I watch his hands work

And work.


I’d quite like to see him


A day’s labour

Wash his hands

Stroke his hair

Lay my hands on his stomach

And warm him up.

 Effie Makepeace


Hospital Spaces


none of these places seem

to be regular shapes

except cubicles

more like cells

some with curtains

some with walls and doors


arrows on the floor

lead to X-ray

oncology  maternity

all waiting

observing none and all

colluding in silence


Daphne Milne


Boyhood Poetry


A boyhood poet friend had a traction engine

That his dad had built. It was a marvellous thing;

Powerful enough to pull his trolley, ingenious,

Precise enough to make a watch repairer sing


Which was what he was, his dad, whose joys

Powered this machine. Why ever he allowed

His boy to treat it like we treated all our toys

I’ll never know, except that he was proud,


The dad, of what his boy could do with words.

He’d tell us poems and give us rides (his trolley just

The usual mash: pram wheels & ironing boards;

We all had one, held together by love and rust).


Those – remember? – endless summer days

(probably one or two but you know what I mean)

We’d chuff along the street, his poems telling us ways

To shoot the skulking Pawnee warriors we’d seen


With their Cheyenne friends behind some garden shed

(Were Cheyenne friends with Pawnee? We never knew.

It didn’t matter. The only good injuns were dead,

He said. He’d read a poem, so it must be true).


The traction engine had sufficient steam, of course,

Enough to carry us to safety. In our poetic game

It didn’t matter that an Indian war party on half a horse

‘D’ve caught us. We always won. Now’s not the same,


Now we’re grown up, things are less precise, ingenuous.

Now we only know Cheyenne, Pawnee and all the rest

By poetry. Now we know; the good of engines

Is their power. I think, sometimes, that poetry is best.


Michael Docker


The Old Gardeners

Arthritic now, confined to straight-backed chairs

And blankets, peering through French windows rarely opened,

Their minds see still the beauty that once was:


A time before the lawn gave way to moss, before gaps

Invaded the long border where prized perennials bloomed,

Before weeds and brambles began their slow choking victory


Over early summer drifts of daffodils, tulips, irises;

A time when roses were pruned, fed, nurtured to full glory,

Before wisteria and clematis, undisciplined, ran rampant.


They know that, like themselves, the garden has become infirm.

They can no longer do the work it needs, yet take pleasure

In the past that they can see, fulfilment of the years of loving toil.


When they are gone, new owners will take charge.

Low maintenance solutions: decking, gravel;

Tarmac laid down for cars.

 David Prior


Women’s wiles


It was £2.99 and not to be sniffed at…

well at least not until it’s been washed.

Another bargain, a charity shop find,


ready to be sneaked into his wardrobe

with the other shirts, freshly ironed.

And out, quietly, will go the awful


green one he bought, together

with the dreadful jacket, hidden

under the spare bed for a year now,


in case he asked, but he didn’t ask,

he probably thought he’d left it in the pub,

so he certainly won’t mention the jacket!


He won’t admit he can’t find anything,

I’m the chaotic one or so he thinks,

but my talents are not to be sniffed at…


Angie Butler



The words arrived from no where

in the snoring husband night.

They whirled

and stamped

and nudged,

round and round they ran,

poking and prodding my cheek squashed

slack mouth, sliding sweat around my neck,

itching my fingers,

forcing me to crawl from the

oh so warm

oh so cosy

oh so disturbed

oh so crumpled sheets

to the next room,

to the lightness of the

five o’clock dawning,

to pet them and to please them

and to write

the bloody things down!”


Angie Butler



Baltimore, County Cork


That day,

sky, mountains, cliffs and glorious wind-swept air.


How could I not dance?

Dance among sea pinks and spongy grasses.


Climb sheer rugged rocks.

‘To the Beacon,’ my friend called.


There, secure between two boulders, I looked down,

down on smoke-blue, sun-diamond sea.


Maureen Weldon


Studio to Stage


Class at 10 a.m.,

the ballet master beats time

with a stick. On the stage

duckling boy – now: Swan Prince

leaps, spins, glides –

in an arabesque of moonlight.


Maureen Weldon

Editor’s Notes



The Owl

This poem I like very much, To me it is talking about coming out of what seems to be a deep sleep. A noise awakens the narrator poet and he/she thinks it is the alarm clock. The sleep must have been unsettled, perhaps a nightmare considering the use of words like ‘fear’, ‘gothic like scream’,’wind howling” etc. It is only when the sleeper goes to the window that they see it i an owl. The last line sums up all the previous felt terrors – ‘And in the air was the crack of a wing’.


The title of the poem works wel throughout because the poet compares love and rief as one – essential. This is backed up by using parallels of the pastoral images in all stanzas, ‘lingers in the air, floats on the waves, rages like a firestorm, rooted in the earth. There are some great lines such as , ‘As gauzy as a cobweb and every bit sticky and it brands your skin, grief stricken widow’.

Lust over a broken bike

A poem of desire; the poet sees close up the hands of the person repairing the bicycle and wonders about them. In a setting of sawdust, spokes, gears and the sense of smell is very strong, creating images of touch in lines – was his hair, lay my hands n his stomach, warm him up.

Hospital Spaces

I like this sghort poem. It is talking about the awareness of space in hospitals. In the first stanza, with the use of of the language – ‘cell’ it makes you think of a prison cell, and the expression ‘arrows’ in the second stanza also associated within a prison estate, this following of rules is a ‘locku of silence’.

Boyhood Poetry

This poem is the story of how good poetry is, as good as making traction engines. The joy of listening nd playing with words is as important as playing in the streets, gardens and games on the Go-Kart or Native American Indians.

The Old Gardeners

A lovely poem on how the poet feels about traditional gardens perhaps having had their day, ending like death. In the first four stanzas the poet describes and likens gardens to old age and calls the garden ‘infirm’ in stanza four. The last stanza reveals that the poet knows that the new idea of gardening will take over, perhaps seen as economic progress in the modern world.

Women’s  wiles

A great poem about a woman’s irritation on the taste of her husband’s clothes. You get the impression she is much organised in the home, the freshly ironed shirts and the thriftiness of her money-management.


Here the poet is telling us what it is like to try and sleep at bed time. At stupid times in the morning all the mind wants to do is get up and write.

Baltimore, County Cork

Here the poet talks about a place of great excitement – the big outdoors, of climbing to the top to see spectacular views of smoke-blue, sun-diamond sea.

Studio to Stage

This short poem is stunning. The poet is showing us by use of time – ‘class at 10 a.m., the ballet master beats time with a stick’ and a few apt phrases like ‘duckling boy’, the training involved in a ballet dancer’s life. ‘Duckling boy’ is transformed on stage to ‘Swan Prince’.


Johanna Boal has been published in Poetry Space anthologies, magazines and online. These include Blowing Raspberries, Ink, Sweat and Tears High Window and more. I had my first poetry collection published by Poetry Space in 2014 (Cardboard City)