GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
SOMETHING AND NOTHING
Lynn Woollacott was born in 1955, left school at 15, married at 16, had her first child at 17, moved to the Norfolk coast at 18.
Whilst bringing up two children and working many jobs she studied with Adult Education and went on to obtain a degree with the Open University.
Jobs ranged from sewing buttons on cardigans to working as a lab technician in an all girl’s school, then settled teaching children about the environment at various outdoor centres (fresh water studies, woodland studies and beach studies.
Lynn holds three recent Diplomas and a Post Graduate Certificate with the University of East Anglia.
She has been published and regularly won prizes poetry in many of the small press magazines including Poetry News and Feature Poet in Orbis 151.
She has performed at libraries, local events and Cafe Writer’s, Norwich.
This is her first full collection.
Something and Nothing
Indigo Dreams Publishing
Paperback perfect bound
£6.50 + P&P U.K
‘Lynn Woollacott is aware of the music of language and the dramatic effect of rhythm and line breaks.’
‘Fairy-tale realism, harsh and bitter-sweet . . . these poems gleam and glitter with the magic counter-language of childhood: rats, mice, gold stars, soot, dolls, birds, packets of tea, the works outing, the cabbage patch, the cry of the rag-and-bone man, the sea . . .’ Anna Reckin.
A fur trimmed hood shields her brother’s face,
but not the sound of slicing spade
through the system of tunnels
that weave by the garden hedge.
Crushed prints of size ten boots
halt where he kneels,
strings of his parka
hang in dew-wet grass,
his hands enclose six,
naked and blind in the orange bucket,
clawless hands and feet
that paw in useless dog paddle.
Pink bodies sink, tiny bubbles rise.
The count rises. He drains the water,
lifts the dustbin lid, pours the contents,
they fall like clumps of soft, pink clay.
Tucked under his parka
he shakes out a matted sack,
stalks the fresh ground like a poacher
fishing in the tunnels for his prey.
The red glow of a cigarette
burns his lungs by paper thin leaves.
As smoking chimneys blend with grey
a smog blanket holds back the stars.
The booty bites the sack as he strides
alongside the hawthorn edge.
Something grey drops by an allotment shed,
another by a stack of hay. He doesn’t hear
the soft thuds or see the knee high leaps
of splayed feet, nor their landing
and scurrying into brown leafy heaps.
By the river he shuffles the writhing mass
into speed of flow, hears the splash
and sees a white owl’s gliding silence
as a hundred mice paddle for the bank,
a blaze of piebald among the grey.
The shed which housed the rats,
which placed their feet in her palms,
ran inside her white sleeves,
snuggled between waist and blouse,
ate biscuits on her shoulder,
and responded to her calls,
was out of bounds now,
and so very quiet and serene.
The amber light flickers
and for a moment the blackbird stops singing,
a frog hurries to the pond
before a fisherman boots him
as bats fly to roost under the bridge
beneath the grey slag heaps.
The pit wheels are still turning
in the dark-ink sky.
My shadow creeps downstairs before me,
something shuffles the soft ashes
of the fireplace, my escaped hamster
leaving tiny footprints over orange lino,
I leave him to breathe in freedom
till I get back from my morning round.
The smoky air suspends
little black snowflakes, dampened,
sticking to your skin and hair.
A coal miner’s spitting in the coarsie,
his greyhound cocks a leg on a car tyre,
a red double-decker bus pulls to the shelter
for factory workers warming their mechanical arms.
The light turns pink under the Squinting Cat,
creaking his fiddle like an abandoned child’s swing
in the park when it’s stormy.
A cat’s-paw is blowing the soot away.
There is blue, faint and distant
like bread and jam without butter,
you can sense it and know the richness
even when it’s far away.
There’s a swan in the pond, the first ever
everyone’s talking about it; they say it’s a sign
mam smiled once
when her sister visited
But there was that time
in the park
when she turned
over the bars,
her flame red hair spiked,
her frown lines broke even,
and the white side lifted
an all topsy-turvy
tummy tickled flip-side
of the clouds.
The Ashman shuffled the soft grey peaks,
shoveled days into seasons.
Sometimes his distant silhouette stood
on a ridge, shovel over his shoulder,
ash clouds rising around his boots.
The volatile sky above him changed
as rapidly as the pattern of troughs
that the winds murmured and hollered.
The Ashman’s clothes flapped in the scorching sun,
and when snowflakes stormed but never settled
on his crusted hands or his grey flowing hair.
They say he walked where a child could slip
into a pocket and disappear
to a core of molten ash and burn in hell,
but there was no child’s name to speak of.
The Ashman appeared recently,
shovel over his shoulder,
he stood on a distant green ridge
draped in rowan berries,
it was difficult to see where he began
and where branches ended.
They say it’s impossible to count
all the saplings he’s planted
in the top-soiled over saddle-backs
of slag heaps, carpeted now
with undergrowth of creeping brambles.
They say he walks through them
without breaking a single stem
On the Plus Side
Six folded bread slices for breakfast
jam spread so thick
you could measure it with your thumb,
she would watch as red blobs
oozed between her brother’s fingers
and dribbled down his chin.
He easily managed the same at tea-time.
When the jars were empty
he squirted tomato sauce inside,
and when the bottle was done
he’d fill it with cold water,
shake, and drink.
She collected paper golliwog badges
and posted them off for metal ones,
She had several collections
stored in a shoe box
wrapped in blue velvet under her bed.
Her mam recycled wax bread paper,
wrapped it around bread and cheese
neatly put in a snap tin,
sitting on the table
five nights a week,
sometimes loitering for a day
or two or three.
In clear weather
slipped in her father’s fishing basket
while his work jacket remained
pegged behind the door.
Bread and jam for tea again then
all the next week.
Tins for the firing range
stacked like a deck of cards,
tins for the alley game
bodies slugged, lids hard,
tins for the walkie-talkies
stringed by a central line,
tins for the stilts
a clown clonking climb,
tins for the newts
filled to the brim,
tins for the runner beans
pink seeds pressed in,
tins for the money box
shaken every day,
tins for the marble slots
keeping boredom at bay,
tinnitus for the ears
slapped by angry cuffs
bringing dried up tears
at every slapstick buff.
Cinders in the Kitchen
Bird in the oven crackling in a roast pan;
flames in the oven flick gracelessly
with blue tongues. Smoke in the house –
she shifts herself slipping
on hot-fat-on-the-lino. Inspired
by young thoughts she awards herself
a swig for a prize of shape-shifting
the sherry and for knowing that water
and grease send up fireworks,
and she ends up landing the turkey
on the hearth, reciting grace.
All’s well that ends well. Another swig
for being brave. Questions will come
later; her head is on feathers,
where she vows to turn over a new leaf
before passing out at the sight of
two mice on the sweeping brush
The Hare in the Woods
Wizened horse chestnuts and overlords of oak
dally with a canopy of glorious beeches,
knotted roots intertwine so everything
touches, and offers from silver birch balcony
a view of the long limbs of the leveret
protruding behind a tuft of bracken,
the way he moves like a rabbit in a hat
contortioned in slippery silks,
his restless feet and twitching ears
sparkle like honey-dewed satin,
his dark eyes reflect the perspective.
Nose as sensitive as a sniffer dog,
he’s done the wire border, the electric gate,
he has to circumnavigate the way he entered.
The common sense of habitats,
squirrels feathering alongside tree creepers,
bats in dormitories, mice in mazes,
a zillion insects under sawn-off logs,
she dismisses the illusionist and saves his grinning image
as a figment of imagination, to share later,
and conjure the tale of the wandering navigator.
The beautiful recorder
with white tipped lips, that she could
manoeuvre her fingers over holes
that left imprints in fingertips
and her breath made drips
of spit on lino. Fast play
and half covered holes didn’t mask
the skeletal dining chair,
silent in the air, thud against the wall,
crumble like a pile of sticks,
or the slamming door, or her mam’s
crumpled back, or the angry air
you could carve with a curse
of imaginary lines that held
the tension, expanding black
and blue like her mam’s hand
and bent little fingers.
She ducks beneath imaginary lines.
The output drips and disperses
evaporates through walls and bricks
and creeps upstairs where her precious recorder
so brittle when hit against the sill
lies broken in two, hidden under
her brother’s bed. She runs to get ice.