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Toddler Group – Incarnation

she is storytelling the glory of God
in gold annunciation

threads spinning from the messenger
shining round and through the frightened girl

which settles to a nub of joy
beneath her beating heart

she tells of journey
and the anxious tramp from no to no

until at last there’s somewhere
a blessed anywhere

a billet in the shed behind the pub
straw stacks shelter from the bitter night

and then the baby

she tells of shepherds on the hill
of stars the sudden blitz of light

all through the telling
the toddler stays on note

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah        loud
unwavering                        aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

but now the storyteller smiles
moves closer

yes she says that’s right
the whole sky’s singing aaaaaaaaah

child and teller eye to eye
he gives voice    she meets the cry

together they are             aaaaaaaaah
you’re right she says that’s how those angels sounded

that’s what they sang – aaaaaaaaaaaaa – llelujah
aaaaaaaa – lellujah                         aa – llelujah

together they fall silent                 still
now the boy listens

for the coming of the kings
the jingle of the harness bells

the long stride of camels
strange gifts

gold       incense    myrrh
a long determined human cry

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Big in the 80’s

I didn’t know until today
that Bombus Terrestris
was the buff-tailed bumble bee,
but I like the thumping heft of it
and the drawn out hiss.
I will say it often,
find ways to Latin drop.
I will chant it as I chop chives,
it will be the theme song of vacuuming.
Bombus Terrestris
will carry me away.

That buff-tailed bumble bee
on a sprig of bramble blossom
against unreasonably bright blue sky,
‘17p’ printed in black, the Queen’s head in gold.
Cards, cards, and more cards,
all those buff-tailed congratulations –
…..I would say swarming
…..but bumble bees are not hive-minded.
Those stamps were big in 1985.

Dead or Alive were in ‘the charts’-
… there’s a phrase that’s not worn well –
you spin me round, like a record, baby,
round and around.
It’s almost a foreign language
words left dangling from obsolete machines.
But that was the song
the first you ever hear with outside ears,
played over and over in Maternity.

The singer’s dead now,
first class post is more than halfway to a pound,
but bees and buzzing spring
still speak of life and energy and wonder.
We love our children
and when they love us back
it still spins us round and round.

Jan Dean

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What’s the point of jellyfish?

I asked another jellyfish
who being all curve and wobble
could not compute the concept ‘point’

direction was a problem too
we float we float
our liquid selves within the liquid sea

and then I understood something about tears
and grief
and oceans
and remembering you were lost
I cried for you

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In a name

I read it in a book      bubble&squeak
they ate it                   I wanted it


how could you not want bubble
on your tongue         to chew squeak


my mother gave me a look and gravy
on Sunday veg         fried up on Monday


she never said as she dished up
this is it you fool       I grew out of stories


with hard boiled eggs and lashings
of whatever there were lashings of


I never tasted their other life
though I’d been eating it the whole time


today I learned that Bengal candles are sparklers
maybe it’s time to meet a tiger in the fire


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Via Sheffield

Three blokes on the over-crowded train
are teasing the woman in the sober coat
who’s taken the fourth seat at their table.
When it’s tickets please they grin
and stack their pile of lager cans in front of her.
She should not be on this train,
power lines are down,
she’s been re-routed.

They shouldn’t be on this train.
They should be in their transit
halfway up the motorway,
but their full load of booze and ciggies from the Carrefour
weighed heavy on the axles.
The chassé didn’t sit right.
They tried for personal use and family party,
that didn’t sit right either.

So Customs took the lot.  The van an’ all.
We thought we’d be all right this time.
This time?  They swap a look
part sheepish part bravado, we did it once before,  
six weeks back, we thought we’d double our redundancy
and lightning doesn’t strike… not twice.
This time they’d used the Christmas money.

She wonders how she looks to them
leather briefcase, city clothes.
They’re hoodied, baseball capped,
the sort of men you might call ‘lads’
who HMC at Folkestone would call ‘chancers’.
You daft sods, you bloody stupid sods
their wives will howl when they get home.

And there’ll be hell to pay.  The last steel works has gone,
the furnaces stand cold.  Trade hasn’t cut it for these three.
They joke about Lord Sugar –  we were giving it a go,          
we fancied wheeler dealin’ but…
They leave one stop before the city.  She wishes them good luck,
they’ll need it.  Light from the platform
spills on debris by the line and wreckage from the winter weather.

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Mr Brough   

brisk                sharp
has been elbow deep in me
I imagine my intestines          lilac blue
and steaming gently in the unexpected air

unravelled they can stretch
the whole way round a tennis court
they told us that in school
I never thought I’d put it to the test

the bowel reacts to being handled
can be skittish might flounce
peristalsis – that squeeze that starts as swallowing
then ripples sweet and regular right through –

must settle down into its proper rhythm
meanwhile strange surges flutter
as if a trout is netted in my belly
and now it flexes slippery and strong

I think of Mr Brough
and riverbanks
of skill honed by practice
the sly gutting of a fish


Jan Dean


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