Jennifer A. McGowan obtained her MA and PhD from the University of Wales.  Despite being certified as disabled at age 16 with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, she has persevered and has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. She won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2014, as a result of which her first full-length collection, The Weight of Coming Home, is now published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.  


She has also been commended in the YorkMix poetry competition 2015 and Highly Commended in the prestigious Torbay Poetry Competition and the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition. Life in Captivity and Sounding, her pamphlets, were published by Finishing Line Press. Her website, with more poetry and examples of her mediaeval calligraphy, can be found at







Jennifer A McGowan


The Weight of Coming Home


ISBN 978-1-909357-90-7


Indigo Dreams Publishing




138 x 216mm


50 pages


£7.99 + P&P UK


PUB: June 2015












A flat boulder on the edge of a cliff.

Your body warms the lichen,

releases its light scent into the air.

Lying here, you know the meaning of space:

it stretches out, up, and on as hours

roll by. A sudden judder: a thought of me.

The world tilts crazily on its axis

and stars dance like butterflies.

The dark blue heat of the July evening

dampens your skin like sweat.

The breeze wantons with your hair,

till you almost cry out

at the memory of urgent, tender hands.

This is how I imagine you

during these short nights and long time zones

apart. In my hotel room, I watch

old black-and-whites on cable,

seeing you between the frames,

flickering like a burning photograph.

At 4AM, Grant and Tracy retire.

I pull over some paper and write,

My dear love. Just that.

The lift goes to the top floor—

going through “Staff Only”

takes me up to the roof, door propped open

by housekeeping seeking fags

or waitresses, illicit trysts.

The moon hangs full. It’s the only fact

worth knowing. Up so high, the wind whips,

tears at my robe, the silk you chose

because it matched my eyes. I throw


the note aloft (with a flash of thigh)

and laugh, and pad downstairs.

Alone, I turn out the lights

and nestle into the thought of your body.

A continent away, a moth

the colour of paper

suddenly flutters and kisses your cheek.


Love Like Salt


A pearl sweats near poison.

A king holds a jewelled cup,

seated between the daughter who chose gold

and the one who would go bare for no man,

but the poison at the feast is subtle:

an empty chair and ancient guilt.


A servant brings the cook

to account for the tasteless meat.

The king almost sees,

but does not hesitate to blame.

The girl does not quail;

says, Once you cast forth a child

because you thought she loved you less.

He lowers his head, weeps.

She embraces him at last,

whispering his name,


she has made him

eat his words

and knowing nothing else

to rub in.




Bearing Witness


What kind of a man

ties himself to the mast

without even a knife in his boot?

It was three hours later

that we noticed him signalling;

halfway to Scylla and Charybdis

before we untied him.

We enjoy a laugh, after all.


It’s all very well weaning yourself

off opium, lotus, whatever,

but when your reward

is to tie yourself

to the underside of a fucking sheep—

well, there are sheep at home,

that’s all I’ll say.

And pigs. Pigs!

Not a one of us got a look-in

while he, the big O,

screwed Circe’s brains out.

So good he just had to go back.

So sorry your mum died,

she said the second time, cooing,

those big deer eyes, long legs,

pulling him back down on the bed.

We knew whose wand had the pulling power,

but Odysseus had a thing

about size, not skill. Holy moly.


So, yeah, we knew the signs.

Ten-year contract with over seven years left;

no sign of Ithaca. Not good odds.

And damn, we were hungry

after a year of acorns.

Six hundred cattle!

We fancied a steak.

Oh, he told us No,

but you know, after the trip out,

the whole war, the flesh-eaters,

the singing birds—there’s only

so much “no” you can take.


We were shipwrecked, of course.

Only one survivor.

And Odysseus, free of us,

fell on his feet, another dame-with-a-C,

Calypso. Seven years there,

and then a princess!

While we

wait at this ditch

for a hint of blood.
















I fall into the landscape. It

folds me in. How these contours are


written in me; each hill and riverbed.

How each wall-stone is one of


my bones. I enter the shelter, try

regrowing roots. The rain that starts to


beat on the roof is no more pure than

the water I cannot stop in my eyes.


Speak hiraeth lowly, slowly; lay it

to rest with the weight of coming home.


Note: Hiraeth is a Welsh word which does not translate directly to English. Roughly, it equates to the soul’s pain and longing when from home.





White, white light.

Trees caught in immobility.

Rimed grass, small ferns

pattern the alabaster ground.

Breath catches; holds; hangs

marbling the air.


Suddenly a blue train screams.

The world shatters.





Only one room left standing.

Two miraculous windows

carry cracks that half-write his name.

The ceiling now exposed as roof.


She will not move. He will get lost,

she says, if I am not here.

No word yet. She sews,

making do, waiting. Garden buried

under next door. Only cats creep out,

prowl the street. She draws

the curtains at dark.


Try to look away.

Look back:  her little area of blackout.

Her candle. Its beams.



Even Though I Have Her Eyes


I never talked to my grandmother

about her life. First, she was just

my grandmother. Later, I realised

her marriage was poison, and fled.


Then she was dead, leaving me

only the beauty of long hair waving

down her back; the smell of waffles;

the promise of a family I was nearly part of.

What or where is home?  This exploration of origins (and the myth of origin) goes through various stages of migration and settlement, merging or contrasting the personal with the

legendary and mythic.




“McGowan finds the stories in landscape, and the landscapes in the lifelines of people's palms. Beautiful, sharp, an accomplished collection.”

Angela Readman


“Jennifer McGowan has a clear, engaging voice and her poems have a strong sense of place and a sharp eye for detail. There is glorious use of sound here and some startling imagery. The poems are shot through with humour even when the subject is painful and those written in voices from myth are quite wonderful.”

Carole Bromley


“In The Weight of Coming Home, Jennifer A McGowan explores actual and imagined experience with confidence and compelling honesty. From vividly memorable everyday scenes  in homes, hospitals and forests, to the voyage of The Odyssey and an Anglo-Saxon battlefield, McGowan applies deep insight and astonishing verbal virtuosity. This is accomplished work from a poet widely published on both sides of the Atlantic.”

David Olsen







0991_JenMcGowan AMEND TWOCH web