Autumn Showcase-September 2020

Thursday, 10 September 2020

• Archive of all Poetry Space showcases

Guest Editor: Leela Gautam


My name is Leela Gautam and I was a medical doctor with the NHS for twenty-five years.

I fell in love with poetry while I was a schoolgirl and had many of my poems published in local and national newspapers in India. I also won several poetry competitions while at school and university.

Subsequently, I wrote poems on health- related issues in medical magazines.

More recently, following retirement, I have been writing in Poetry Space, with a couple of poems published in the anthology, A Scream of Many Colours




I was surprised and honoured when Sue asked me to be the guest editor of the Autumn Showcase. It has been interesting and difficult. I had to choose ten poems from a total of fifty.

Most of the poems are of high quality and I had to read and re -read them many times over before making my choice. I hope the other poms will be considered for future publication.

The poets have dealt with a variety of subjects, with many poems on current problems. I have chosen those that resonated with me and my interest in social issues. They cover memories of my childhood, matters of ageing, hope in the midst of crisis, of abuse and helplessness and the present pandemic.

Then a poem about the humblest of creatures, the earthworm. A good read.

I also learnt a lot from the poems I could not choose.

Finally, thank you Sue for giving me the privilege of editing this showcase.




Behind my childhood home the field was lined with trees – 

Tall sycamores and oaks. They might have been designed

For climbing; we climbed them often; often scraping knees

And forearms as we pushed aside the twigs. We didn’t mind,

We didn’t notice, our childhood games came first and best.

One tree was a spaceship set to launch, the next a lookout post;

The scruffy field was Mars one day; the next the Wild West,

Dan Dare and Wyatt Earp by turns, Wyatt Earp the most

As I recall; one boy had a plastic gun like his, elegant

And long and, we imagined, accurate over half a mile or more,

We envied the boy who owned it, waved it round, arrogant

And strong, though it was absolutely useless in a draw.

Where was I? Trees, of course. Dens, cockpits, camouflage,

So many things they could become, and always the smell;

Damp wood, wet leaves, moss, rotting bark; a glad montage

Of memories. Today I saw two children by some trees. I couldn’t tell

If parents forbade them or if they were daunted by the climb.

I wanted to say, ‘go for it, kids, go for it – this is your time’


Michael Docker




my body is walking me into

the cool blue sky where I see the dragonfly

hover over a dock leaf,

a shot of burning orange

pencil wings levitating

a sheer livid beauty

drawing me in,


the rose heart contrasts.

fluttering like a crazy girl

as if she were part of

my carzy mind games,


imagining enemies,

speaking in exposures

as I open the gate

into dream scapes waving their oxygen miles;

poppies firing their lapping reds

over fields.


Linda Payne


New Life, New Love

(after Jess Norgrove, She Lives In A Fairytale) 


This is genuine Gothic, not Strawberry Hill’s 

papier-mâché confection, but good local stone,

could be anywhere, Tintagel to Transylvania, 

not a fantasy, but as real as anything can be.


Her sky or the ruined ceiling mirroring it,

is blue, but the stars have fallen to the floor,

lost in the rubble, maybe ground underfoot,

any crystal, windows or goblets, long gone.


Even the staircase, to be ascended or descended

at will, to the grand ballroom or reception room,

is eroded, usable at your own risk, in daylight.

Our heroine is indifferent but not oblivious.


Electricity, hot water, central heating, are not

her concern, are someone else’s fantasy for this 

house, she has managed for four hundred years,

and will never look a day older than twenty-two.


She has never thought of dying, or growing up,

has never heard blues or jazz, has never been

to a concert or art gallery, she has no interest

in princes or slippers, no wicked step-mother.


She knows her Princess will come to save her,

will give her the new world and new life

she deserves, and that this will be more real 

than any fantasy, and she will know true love.   


Brian Docherty


One Monday afternoon


I’m not the water-baby

I once was – hard to accept,

the sea as inviting as ever,

patterned in sunshine

like a David Hockney print,

cool, rippling, shallow.


I paddle quite a way, trail

fingers in the water, take

a plunge expecting to swim

off with ease as usual, but

my muscles have lost their

rhythm, their confidence.


I splash like a novice, turn

on my back, float on the

gentlest of waves, sea and sun

stinging my eyes, something

of my old self returning.

Not for long. I can’t swim.


I worry about balance, about

getting back on my feet, about

making it to the shore. I’m

disoriented, my vision blurred,

I aim for our purple towels, crash

out under the sun umbrella.


A Monday afternoon coming of age.


Moira Andrew


They told you this was not the place to cry


They told you this was not the place to cry

although you saw how different she looked;

the black moons growing on her fingernails,

the big tube in her little throat.


Although you saw how different she looked

you found yourself struck dumb as she,

the big tube in her little throat

the tearless agitation of her cry.


You found yourself struck dumb as she;

you could not pick her up or soothe

the tearless agitation of her cry,

you could not kiss her head or sing to her.


You could not pick her up or soothe;

you left her to the grey machines around her cot.

You could not kiss her head or sing to her;

the slow, indifferent beep her lullaby.


You left her to the grey machines around her cot;

the black moons growing on her fingernails, 

the slow, indifferent beep her lullaby.

They told you this was not the place to cry.


Kate Pursglove




You break into our house

and empty cupboards,

clap doors shut,

and suck all air out.


You rampage in to squawk

and crack and pick

through the building’s bones—

eating life alive.


Virulent invader, you leach 

the life out of us—remorseless,  

vicious, our foe for whatever

of our lives you leave to us.


If ever we did, we no longer 

tremble over Little Green Men

from the Red Planet: no, invisible, 

you are, into infinity, much worse.


Now get out—go blurt 

your filthy coughing

in a black hole on the far side

of the universe.


And let us 


You are a curse

too close for comfort.


 Lizzie Ballagher




She takes the knife and cuts into the melon, careful

to keep the slices thin and even

just as he likes them.

She kneads the bread dough thoroughly

although aware of her still-healing arm.

He is particular about bread.


She chops onions and peppers, skins tomatoes, 

then rests a moment to let the pain

from her bruised ribs ease.

Carefully she cleans the fish,

and the slap, slap of its wet landing

reminds her of the slap, slap

of his hand on her face.


She washes her hands and the knife, careful

to be thorough.

He is particular about hand-washing.


Sue Kauth


Life Saver


Corona virus saved my life.

I cannot fill the vacant space,

vacuum abhorred, or so it’s said;

but clock and kettle watched alike,

as drying paint, how slow the hours.

Unkenneled black dog sniffs around,

a prowling circle, nearer coil,

but how to end, without more hurt,

fake accident, without a note?


But when I saw one strive to live,

a desperation to return,

how could I give up, passing life,

when they bore hell to see their child?

I cannot throw what others crave

however desperate I feel –

caput in head, but rationed thought

to move the heart, the pulsing core;

tomorrow may bring shaft of hope?


Stephen Kingsnorth



Conversation With An Earthworm


Mud is not a dialect I speak,

its syntax of burrowing,


though your verbs astonish – 

wriggle, aerate, twist, regrow,


slither through my fingers

in a slime of meaning


as you listen for whispers,

contract, expand, breathe light. 


Darwin’s darling hermaphrodite

you are night-crawler, earth-wriggler,


you must love yourself. 

Don’t go breaking even one 


of those five hearts 

over my crassness.


Sieve the worlds that shift

above you, converse with fungi,


soil your segments, slide on down,

under, through, among, thread roots,


tune in to footfall, beak-bite.

I’ll nod nouns away


when I can – 

blackbird, robin, magpie.


Besides, they already know 

they’re outnumbered. 

Shirley Wright


Son and Father


The loveliest wedding-dress,
I take it from the wardrobe,
loosen the wrappings and try it on,
soon learning elegance in the fall of it,
turning in folds of satin before the glass.
I caress the padded bodice,

the cream contoured hip,
feel power in standing tall.

I put on Mom’s lipstick;
eight years old when I first used it
my mouth like huge geraniums,
the same shade my father later raised on me.

I pull the wrapping over the dress,
tissue paper in shades of white:
ivory, moonflower, quartz, apple blossom;
an old protective blanket.

I pack my things,
take the dress,
start the car.

Thelma Laycock



Editor’s Notes


This poem transported me back in time to my own childhood home in India. It describes beautifully, the fun and joy of climbing trees and of letting imagination take over. The last line about the children of today is so true. I guess they are discouraged from this fantastic experience due to health and safety reasons. A pity!

Like the poet, I feel the urge to tell children to try it out. I encouraged my own children and now, granddaughter



The picture painted here is vivid and pulsating with life. The colourful dragonfly, suggestive of transformation, moving on to the carzy girl (very crazy) and then the escape into an expanse of poppies ‘firing their red’. Could this be a dream/nightmare about a war experience?


New life, new love

This poet has done with her poem what Jess Norgrove has done with her photographs.

I could picture this once loved house, still with solid parts and a hint of grandeur, lying in ruins.

Then a feeling of confidence, that someone would transform it and give it fresh life.


One Monday afternoon

It is about ageing; an attempt to take the plunge, embrace chances, only to realise that you have lost confidence and once again, you are ‘a novice’. 

The poem has some interesting phrases, ‘purple towels’ denoting frustration and ’crash out ’suggesting acceptance.

The message in this poem, is to gracefully accept the inevitable, do what one is able. This may not sit well with some readers.

They told you this was not a place to cry

A heartrending poem, of a scene witnessed by a parent, in an intensive care unit. Every stanza speaks of anguish and helplessness. It describes a young girl on a ventilator with’ black moons on her fingernails’ and ‘a big tube in a little throat’. The room is grey and forbidding, the only music, the bleep from machines.

The dumbstruck parent knows ‘Cannot not touch, must not cry’

This poem had me in tears.


This is another poem of our time.

The poet uses apt language to describe the virus and the havoc it causes.

I refer to phrases, ’virulent invader,’ ‘eating life alive’ and ‘suck all air out’.

Although there is the stern demand to ‘get out ’the poet expresses the general feeling that it is

‘too close for comfort’.


A dark poem that describes control, abuse, and submission at the hands of a man, perhaps with OCD.

The abused, like so many women, appears to have no choice. She does what he expects, what he likes,

and survives to please.

Sadly, abuse is prevalent in all societies and within every socioeconomic group. The Covid outbreak has brought this problem into sharp focus.

Life saver

To reach a point of desperation and then realise the value of life. This, after witnessing someone’s brave fight to stay alive against all odds.

It is a positive message of realization and hope.

There is a rhythm to the poem that is very appealing.


Conversation with an earthworm


This is a lovely poem. I enjoyed reading it several times.

The poet has used phrases that conjures up a complete picture of the humble earthworm as it wriggles below ground to energise the soil. ‘Slither through my fingers in a slime of meaning’ and ‘Sieve the world that shift’ are just two of the many phrases used to aptly describe this essential lifeform.


Son and Father


This is beautifully written piece of verse. 

A son breaking free at last, to express his sexual orientation.

He had dabbed his mother’s lipstick at the age of eight, seen by his father as significant.

His father obviously chastised him for it.

Now he is ready to move on. He packs a beautiful wedding dress, probably his mother’s and leaves with the rest of his things. A brave move.