Ice: Contemporary and traditional poems
for the festive season
Edited by Meredith Collins
Pighog Press, 2012
Ice is a beautifully designed anthology that includes works by poets of the past and present about winter, snow, ice and everything frosty. Classics by William Blake, Emily Dickinson, John Keats and Charlotte Brontë snuggle up with works by contemporary poets like David Crystal, John McCullough, John Davies and Jeremy Page. Whether nursing a glass of mulled wine or roasting chestnuts on the fire readers will love to immerse themselves in these memorable poems full of evocative imagery and cadence.
£1 from each sale of Ice goes to the charity Shelter to support their work with the homeless.
Poetry by William Shakespeare, John McCullough, Emily Dickinson, Alex Mosner, William Blake, Chris Hope, David Crystal, Elizabeth Tollett, Thomas Campion, Nancy Campbell, Anne Hunter, Robert Burns, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Paul Deaton, John Keats, Charlotte Brontë, Alwyn Marriage, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jeremy Page, George Meredith, Eileen Casey, John Donne, Meredith Collins, Robert Bridges, Laura Kayne, James Thomson, John Davies and Christina Rossetti.
March thaws the ocean
and I resume spinning pebbles into the shoal.
Speedboats reclaim the lavender distance,
their backwash diminished
by rollers that hiss at my feet.
On jetties, men clank huge buckets of mussels,
their rubber soles squelching
past crate stacks, flung rope.
The air stinks of spilt fish guts and tainted jokes.
Husband comes home to find his wife …
Last month, they hoisted a dead man
from the glass-covered Atlantic,
a small crowd of us watching.
Matted blond hair, his face purple and mustard.
He seemed to be pondering inscrutable algebra.
A passing nurse crossed herself,
two boys dashed for a bus and I carried on home,
trying to remember your smell.
It’s my turn to phone your mother
though I’ll write a letter instead:
calm words that say everything’s fine.
In my recurring dream, I swim
instinctively back to Christmas
to sweep again all the icicles
from under your bedroom window.
from The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011).
Winter’s Naked Answer
To melt the butterscotch cathedral
of your ribs, to wear the silk chant of shivers
woven through your skin
would be to understand
the slur of music in your eyes;
the way you look at a thing of beauty
with a quiet understanding.
We walked together through December
and you noticed the moon’s raw crown of light.
You broke off a sharp gasp of sky and swallowed it,
held it inside you where it learned your silhouette,
and then you let it out. We stood there, shared breath,
stared up at the vague enormity.
It was as if you were listening carefully to its story,
keeping a secret on behalf of everything else.
I went home and drank a glass of water
just to give myself weight,
tried to solve winter’s naked answer
with nothing more than a broken key of questions,
to find that you are the unspoken agreement between
the rest of the night and the way we touch;
gorgeous as a beggar’s soul.
Snow Fox (on the cancellation of our reading
at the Whitechapel Gallery, December 2010)
for John, Matt and Zena
I watch the fox
that slept on our shed-roof in summer
walk up Queensthorpe
in a blizzard of snow.
He of the right leg limp
he of the cat thin tail
head down, ribs lean
in the last winter of his life.
(Snow fox on fox-hill
on his red bread tray sledge,
Spider, popping snow white pills.)
I read out loud to no-one
look at my set list, my last poem
for Arthur, my grandad,
who would have rattled past the Whitechapel
flat out in his ambulance,
the blitz years he never really talked about.
Happy nights though
ballroom dancing in Bethnal Green
chain smoking Black Cat cigarettes.
Somewhere on Lemon street
a severed freckled arm in rubble
hand lock tight around a worn out old iron
Shirt, skirt, silk tie,
only the washing line left of the house.
Arthur dancing the American Smooth
before another black-out, more bombs.
Wait. Watch a scimitar of heath
chicane above the fencepost silhouettes,
careen along the hillside’s windward crease,
as drab as the branches where it settles.
Wait. See the ground start up and fly
and leave its long-legged shadows in the snow.
Observe a wing of primrose in the sky,
how long it takes for anything to grow.
Wait. Count dull barbs on silver wire,
sodium stars that pierce the closing dusk,
wheat stalks scorched in the harvest fire,
the total sum of humanity’s flux.
Will waiting help us understand how much
of us is there, how much of there is us?
‘Winter’ was written as part of a commission from North Middlesex University Hospital and Bouygues UK.
from Ice (Pighog Press, 2012).
Order Ice’s companion publication Skate.