David Caddy is a poet and critic from the Blackmore Vale in north Dorset. He was educated as a literary sociologist at the University of Essex. He founded and organised the East Street Poets, the UK’s largest rural poetry group from 1985 to 2001. He directed the legendary Wessex Poetry Festival from 1995 to 2001, and later the Tears in the Fence festival from 2003 to 2005. He has edited the independent and eclectic literary magazine, Tears in the Fence, since 1984. He co-wrote a literary companion to London in 2006, has written and edited drama scripts and podcasts, and regularly contributes essays, articles and reviews to books and journals.
“The Bunny Poems give us a ‘localised sensation’ of twentieth-century rural existence. They re-connect us with the land as a deep, mirroring presence; the double-edged properties of plants; creature-sense; and the animal face each human carries. At the same time, the poems are an acute acknowledgement of absence; in speech, understanding and relationship.
David Caddy’s edge of anger works to show real events having real consequences that can be subtle yet devastating. The poems make the case for how the slow erosion of poverty and remoteness, can deprive community of a language resourceful enough to protect itself.”
— Sarah Hopkins
No explanation is offered
when the old barn burns down.
No one wants to follow
into the three mile wood.
In 1961 it is enough
to believe in electricity.
A dark awareness rooted
in broken branches, absence of song,
strangling webs, a healing stag’s foot,
the remains of a bonfire,
what could be moving, or forced to,
catches an eye, jolts.
Pausing, mid-stride, to look left,
adjust the step and suspend
the slap of recognition.
Drips, echoes. Stoat ripped
flesh. Muffled clips, snaps.
Something nervous, blurred, calls out.
Back in the days of centre partings,
when gentlemen doffed their hats to strangers
and old people were those that walked
into the river or hid under a bridge,
I had a dog called Sue.
The wind told her a fantastic story.
I caught the periphery of her vision.
We jumped the wire fence that subsided
in our making and lifted our legs
to meet whatever lay ahead.
She burned for days. Implied
that I should prod the door, walk out
with a stick. She slept in the tool shed,
with the jackdaw, by the paraffin heater,
and never came on heat. I minced her tripe.
Someone was lost, trying to find a way.
We walked a steady line along the
grind, ears pricked, negotiating real
and perceived obstacles with trust and luck,
waiting for the next call or crack.
I could read, hear the breeze listening in,
following a trail that began to stare back
in more than distance. My foreboding
appeared in a rush from the legs of a woman
and Sue growled long and hard at our find.
Harry in His Last Year of Employment
He brought his milk round with him, clicking
in his mouth, when we entered the hot room.
Harry in his last year of employment and I
in my first. Two greenhorns hugging baskets
of yellow curd towards an electric hopper.
Crumbs, an acrid smell, filling our open shirts.
Harry sifts bird calls in his frequent blows.
His wholeness drifting in bits of past lives.
Stone picker. Bird scarer. Stone-breaker,
hauler. Road builder in the Twenties and Thirties.
Turns on the boundary of speech, takes
seconds to reply to a question or an order.
Leaning over hot vats to cut and turn,
forcing sword like knives inwards two-handed
as if punting, exhaling every second, third stroke.
Two men attempting to carefully empty top hats,
trimming their edges, restoring body, shape,
relentlessly told to empty yet more vats.
Harry rubs both nostrils with his forefingers
as if shaving off some unwanted flakes.
Vision ceases as the hopper clogs. Wedges
removed. Hands opened to release distant
dreams. Recaptured as the connection sparks.
Whiff of rennet, old man, wet coat.
Harry spits. The pour of his head wringing out
inner strength. Veins in full display. Effort
effervescent. Between bursts, he inspects callouses.
He insists on filling the muslin covered moulds
refusing impulses to slow down, their sheer volume
seemingly a challenge to his name’s aura.
He thrusts his shovel to the trollery bottom
and in measured experience presses his weight
sideways on, whilst I with nimbler hands
weigh, fold muslin, remove pins, apply the pump
re-weigh and place on the press room belt.
We become a team. Old-timer. A-level student.
By hose down he’s nearly spent. Handkerchief knotted.
I offer to take the shovel. Am met with an iron
no and cannot grasp. I sulk. We do not speak.
Other workers avoided the shovel, sniggered.
Later I saw marks on the scales, his fear, and
Harry lost two fingers in the hopper, and left.
Before the by-pass and Bristol raiders,
I used to visit the Italian in West Street
with its signed pictures of starlets,
octogenarian, dog and Serena,
immaculate in tight skirt, mobile, artificial
leather, barely disguised fatigue.
The owner would sometimes appear
with fat cigar, smile and shrug.
I recalled my old economics teachers
saying that monetarists were a mad
fringe group that would never come to power.
When the Italian closed we moved
our allegiance to Sarah’s in East Street,
and Serena, in new pinstripe, answered
her last call and never came back.
from The Bunny Poems (Shearsman Books, 2011).
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Read more of David’s work here and here.