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Sheila Aldous lives on the Teign Estuary and is influenced by the comings and goings of wildlife and tides.
Her career spanned over 30 years in advertising and marketing on national and provincial newspapers and magazines, located in Liverpool, London and Bermuda. Now retired she writes poetry and dabbles in art.
She is a member of The Poetry Society and local poetry groups such as Poetry Teignmouth and Moor Poets.
Sheila has an MA in Creative Writing from Exeter University and has won or been placed in several competitions. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, 2018. Paper Boats is her first collection.
138 x 216mm
£8.99+ P&P UK
The Burning of Teignmouth and Shaldon, 1690
Paper Boats takes us to a history almost forgotten, bringing to life fictional voices from the past and present to tell the story of the last invasion in 1690 on English soil. This poetry is coloured by the River Teign and its ever changing sky and river scape. She dresses her characters with fear, witchcraft, godliness, gratitude and resilience with hope for the future.
“‘Miracle of miracles, chalice of clay’: in Paper Boats, Sheila Aldous weaves a tapestry of lives through time in the haunting seascapes of the Teign valley. Her evocations are both delicate and powerful, her poems taut and shaped like a butterfly; the careful forms of her language remind us that this is the thread that binds and redeems us in poetry.”
"Jump aboard these Paper Boats, let the tide take you to the forgotten story of the last invasion on English soil. The sound of the sea and the far-off smell of smoke permeate poems, which link a tale of terror and destruction with the poet wandering her shoreline, delivering a ‘cry from the past’ and ‘a gleam of fire in the setting sun.’”
“From opening reflective, elegiac poems from the present: from a shoe, centuries old, still laced, found half-buried in the mud, Sheila Aldous plunges the reader back to 1690, to an awakening of fire and brutal devastation. Here is a compelling consideration of a tragic moment in Teignmouth’s past.”
Only the Ghosts Can Tell
I sit on the banks of the estuary
and listen to geese in their chatter
as they plan to leave, steal a glance
at the swans as they lift their necks,
at the oystercatcher as his long legs
carry him further from me, away
in his world of digging and dipping
for a sea breakfast of morsels.
The sky lifts its morning curtain
as the last of the moon departs
and a red morning glows over the hills
behind me, and I think of the shoe,
the one I found buried in the mud,
the one still laced from centuries ago.
Maybe the ghosts of Dartmoor have a theory
but for the birds, for the tide, for me, it is too early.
Fire and Water
You need to wait for the tide to go out,
enjoy the rocky leavings of the swirl and swim,
abandon your socks and shoes
on the sandy shore and take a chance
on the riverbed.
You could find an oyster shell, find
a pearl, or if not, a starter for dinner;
maybe there would be a smooth
pebble you can finger and wish
on moon’s lucky light.
And when you are out there in the middle
of it all and the squelch is glutinous in your
toes, you may hear a cry from the past, see
a gleam of fire in the setting sun.
Our regiment of houses, our fiery
shields in cloud crackled skies,
our homes flaring hoists of sail
flapping saddened in the wind,
their thatch bonnets lifted, wailing,
roaring smoke trails of goodbye,
until the last was gone, in a dying
snap and pop of burning wood;
then a spring rain pattered down
the empty lanes – once houses stood –
washing clean the hollow alleys
where new footprints marked us out.
From a crevice, rambling wild,
forget-me-nots winked, beguiled.
and I wondered at my ancestors ... at what happened
what they did … what they’d say to me today.
If I listened very carefully
would I hear the
No-one Died They Said
Well I’m gobsmacked! I really really am,
a fire like that in Teignmouth, Shaldon too,
how many died you say?
What! No-one, in a fire like that? That cannot
be true. All those houses gone up in smoke;
what sort were this crew?
Poor fisher folk, livelihoods lost, it beggars belief:
just shows you can never tell, and there’s no trace?
Well, I suppose there wouldn’t be.
But look, that many people, you say not one?
You say there is no record, well then how do you know,
I mean how can you be sure?
Oh come on, they died, perished, like victims in
the Great Fire of London, like the Grenfell fire;
not everyone escapes disasters.
Well, I’m truly gobsmacked, I really am,
a fire like that in Teignmouth and Shaldon,
and no one died? Unbelievable.
In the leak of light from outside,
your body under the duvet
shapes the shadows.
I watch your breath, proof of life
stabbing the dark with night blades
flecking the air, shredding
the fabric that was ours.
‘She was there,’ was all you’d said,
‘she was not you.’
And you pull another thread
that binds me, nails me to the
pinboard of my mind – a Painted
Lady – the fire you hunted,
the nectar already gone,
on our honeymoon in the Dartmoor Hills,
but could not find.
‘Nobody died,’ you said.
A butterfly dies in the cold of a river bed
that moment when what is said is a lie.
kind of pain,
it takes one shot
and you disrobe me with
your pointed eye, blast
me in my nakedness
exposed. I am finite.
The helix of my heart
pumps veins of leaking sap
sticking sweet under salty sky,
rotting foreshore with that part,
as tangled fingers stretch out in
grace, in prayer to my edifice, my
oaken state – transfigured.
Papyrus rafts on mudflats,
to drift away.