I’m a Silver Brancher!

I’m really honoured and delighted and thrilled to have been given the opportunity to have a Silver Branch feature from Black Bough Poetry.

Black Bough publish regular anthologies of imagist micro-poems (their Christmas and Winter editions are beatiful and moving and wintry and perfect), facilitate the weekly #TopTweetTuesday poetry-fest on Twitter AND have created a series of Silver Branch showcases for featured poets. I was so moved and excited to be invited to be a featured poet. Please look at what Matthew M C Smith has created here. He really demonstrates that editing is an art form in its own right.

https://www.blackboughpoetry.com/christmas-special-21-sarah-connor

Day 23: Christmas Eve

After Kim Moore

And on that day we threw away
our notions of what Christmas should be.

We turned away, that day, and embraced
new traditions; we gave each other books
on Christmas eve, and permission to read.

On that day we were completely selfish:
we did not answer the phone to my parents,
we did not wish merry Christmas
to the neighbours, or make a buffet
or prepare the veg. On that day,
we poured ourselves two glasses of red
and took our Christmas eve books
to bed.

On that day, we didn’t put
a mask on for our friends and listen
to the chatter about last minute
wrapping and going to bed at three
am and getting up at five. On that day
we wore brand new pyjamas
and touched warm feet against warm feet,
and on that day I untied the woman
dressed as a mother, who had waited
for a Christmas with her children
and she lifted into the air and dissolved.

She was only black and white.
And on that day I became colourful again,
and childish and stayed up all night
and the next day we laid red roses
on our daughter’s grave and ate
our Christmas dinner in front of the TV.

Thank you to Wendy Pratt for letting me use this poem. It’s taken from When I think of my body as a horse, a collection that makes me ugly cry. I find it immensely moving, and I wanted to share it for all the people who find Christmas emotionally complicated. It’s not all tinsel and jolliness. Wendy has published four collections of poetry and is widely published in magazines and journals. She is a columnist for Yorkshire Life magazine and was the first female editor of Dream Catcher magazine. She is the creator and editor of Spelt magazine. She is a great course leader, and you can find her here: https://wendyprattpoetry.com/ and on twitter at @wondykitten

Day 22: Secret Code

On a sparkled night such as this

time shines through prisms of crowded of stars.

Somewhere, a little window frames the vast

cruel winter’s eternal night,

on the sill a solitary candle

soft glows gold halo – beacon-bright.

Faint hope glimmers a gentle thrill 

from faraway-faraway yonder. Light spills.

Tiny flame passes through danger, dark ages of time,

from wanderer to wanderer,

from their hands –  to your hands,

from yours – to mine.

From hand – to bone – to star –

to dust-sprinkled shadows’ desolate hearts. 

Memory attunes to distant chimes,

long gone prayers, long gone times 

remembered in flicker, rekindled in spark,

secret code pulsing the dark.

Bleak. Bleak. Bright.

Bleak. Bleak. Bright.

Here – Safe haven – See –

The Light.

Rhona Greene, December 2021

Thank you to Rhona for this lovely poem. Rhona is an emerging human being trying to kilter, off balance. She/her. Dedicated follower of poetry. Is rón mé. Be Kind. Dublin, Ireland. She tweets from @Rhona_Greene.

Some people like a little background to their poetry, and some don’t. If you do like a little background, Rhona gave me this:

For a little background context you might be interested in – There is an old tradition in Ireland of lighting a candle in the window on Christmas Eve. The origins trace back to the 17th Century Penal Laws when the Catholic religion was suppressed and priests went on the run in fear for their lives.  The candle was code to them and others that this was a safe house and the door was always left unlocked. The tradition continues even if many now don’t remember the reasons behind it. It is still a beautiful symbol of an Irish welcome ‘fáilte isteach’ – ‘welcome inside’. 

We all deserve such a welcome.

Day 21: The Lighthouse at Two Lights, Edward Hopper

I need your light

These lantern rooms,
their clamshell lenses
beacons burning through
the dark

Years of whitewalled
standingtall under cloud-brushed
skies, a safe space, a shelter,
suffering storms, tides& anger

My daymarked times are over,
time spent in silence& night,
searching for remnants of resilience

I need your light 

For the solstice, a poem by Anja Meyer – capturing the craving for light.

Day 20: December in Bleakness and Joy

And now, the trees bare-branched sway
beneath the long night’s moon, roots cocooned
below the fallen snow—so we belay

our fears of endless night with candle flicker, delight
in twinkling glow and flow of wassail cheer.

Against the black-winged sky, the skeleton trees dream,
the flowers sleep beneath frost-gleam,

and we yearn for green–and sights unseen–

for magic or miracles, banish the tragic
with mirth and song,

learn the true wonder is love, and the joy, to belong

while our Earth spins and turns–
the pale blue dot, our golden star–
bonded with a balanced pull, as lovers are

as we know, too,

when we look up to glimmers, ancient bright,
then open our hearts to recreate that light.

Thank you to Merril D Smith for this poem of light and love and joy.

Day 19: Snaw-blind

She can sense thi emptieing o thi sky
tho hir sichts near awa, hir een
a glimmer o stars. This cauld snap
come oan quick and noo abidy flees.

She cannae hear thi hoosemertins
nae mair, thir wee whitters alaftthi fields. She listens tae thi geese
gaein North, their sang o fir snaw, fir snaw.

By winter, if she’s sparit, she’ll be
stane-blind, naither use nir ornament
tae onyone. She’ll choosit a future course,
gine stravaigin fir snaw ir sun.

Thank you to Lynn Valentine for this wonderful poem. It has such atmosphere. It’s taken from A Glimmer o’ Stars, her pamphlet from the Hedgehog Press. @dizzylynn

Baby’s First Year – Welcoming Christmas

We have wrapped this first Christmas in red paper.
Bow around the box to keep the anticipation
from jumping out of its cardboard hiding place
beneath our artificial tree with twinkly lights
all aglitter in their reflections on dark windows,
your face just as much a bulb of brilliance
when your smile lights the spark behind your eyes
and joy rushes into our room early
leaps onto the bedding and laughs
at all these presents we are opening
too much in love with each other
to contain ourselves.

I love this poem about baby’s first Christmas. It’s so full of love and joy.

Carol J Forrester is a writer, history geek, and new mum. Her time is spent balancing dirty nappies, half-finished poems, and ever vanishing book marks. Somewhat obsessed with mythology and folklore, ancient deities often sneak into her writing and she spends too much money on books her husband swears she already owns. She published her first full length collection ‘It’s All In The Blood’ in 2019.

Day 17: Winter Solstice

The shadowy ones hauling the Henges upright knew:
As they measured stone for death and wood for life
Against circling stars pinned to the spheres,
That the longest dark is womb to the light.

In this snow-deadened morning the weeping sun
Bleeds into the frozen arms of sky.
Tree fingers grope the mist
That persists in stifling sound and sight-
Clinging to the sleeping ground
Long past the low and feeble zenith
That drops meek and swift to the rim of night.

This morning the world sobs under the weight
Of hate. Children have old eyes.
But fractional tilt with the day’s dying,
And we look a breath longer under shy lashes
At our star that burns itself alive
To warm us.

Our days in the sun are numbered;
We won’t wait for the rays of June to stir
Our blood, but stoke our own fires
To become the winter light.

Thank you to Polly Oliver for this wonderful solstice poem, originally published by Spillwords.

A mother of two boys, scribbling from the Western coasts of the UK, mainly poetry, but whatever comes out really. A journalist and PR professional, the first whispers of middle age and declining eyesight made having a real go at ‘real writing’ a little more urgent. A Cornish native, I made my home in South West Wales so the sound of the sea sighs through my work every now and then. Lover of nature, yoga, boutique coffee shops and occasional (and very dreadful) surfer.

Day 16: a double act

Two poems today, one from the lovely Kim Russell, and the other from the equally lovely Mary Earnshaw. They’re both quite short, and I think they work together well – both poems of winter weather.

Kim first:

Gentle Winter Reminder

Snow has been falling for half an hour
and already the garden is covered.
Slumped by the log store,
only the tip of an old sack is visible
as I approach, feet firmly in my wellies,
one sock creeping down to my toes.

The logs are frozen to the touch,
landing in the basket with a thud.
I’m so intent on piling logs for the stove,
I almost miss him: a cock robin hops
along the log-store roof and stops,
head cocked, eye shining, breast aflame,

reminding me of my duty to fill
the bird feeders with the sweetest trill.

and then Mary:

A wet coming they’d have of it

Beyond rain-bleared windows
draggled branches drip beneath
a night loured by cloud.

In the East no stars shine to
lead wise men, or fools, carrying
myrrh, gold and frankincense.

At last the rain stops. We conjure
up the silence of a deep snow quilt,
imagine reindeer really can fly.                

Kim M. Russell started writing when she was a schoolgirl and, since she retired from teaching in 2014, she has become a morning writer of at least a poem a day. She posts mainly poetry on her WordPress blog, writinginnorthnofolk.com. Her poems have been published on-line on Visual Verse, Spillwords, The Ekphrastic Review, Pure Haiku and the Poetry Pea Podcast, as well as in the following printed anthologies: Poetry Rivals and Love’s Labyrinth (Forward Press), Afflatus Magazine, River Writes (Bure Navigation Conservation Trust), Anthology of Aunts and Second Place Rosette (The Emma Press), Peeking Cat Anthologies 2017 and 2018, Fieldwork (New Nature Writing from East Anglia) and the Poetry Pea Journals, as well as a piece of flash fiction in Flash, I love you!, published by Paper Swans Press. Kim has self-published Between Heartbeats, an anthology of short stories and flash fiction, and a novel for children, Joe and Nelly. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and two cats.

Mary Earnshaw is a northerner with mixed loyalties, born Lancastrian but raised from the age of seven in Yorkshire. She is co-author, with Alan Parry, David Walshe and Paul Robert Mullen, of a chapbook of poems published by Dreich about Southport, under the title Belisama, Ptolemy’s name for that area south of the River Ribble, between sea and moss, where Mary lives. Her poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction have been published in various anthologies and journals and in 2021 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize and the Julian Lennon Poetry Prize.

In 2012 Mary published a crime fiction novel (A Wake of Vultures) set in Zambia where, since 1993, she has spent much time with her husband, Larry Barham, Professor of African Archaeology at the University of Liverpool, whom she met (far too long ago to admit) on a dig in Swaziland (now Eswatini). As a result, her non-verbal skills include cooking concoctions in witchy iron cauldrons, in the dark, over an open fire, for groups of dirty, hungry people.