After Birth
– earlier versions of this poem were published by both Word Bohemia and Ink Pantry Publishing

Returning the strangled head
is impossible.
With a gutting knife

the shepherd severs,
retrieves the blood-still body
from the womb.

A lamb half born.
Not the gracious legs first
dive of successful birth

but a curious ‘what’s out there?’
nudge that without propulsion
limits life.

The shepherd’s daughters
spring across the field—
‘It’s dead! It’s got no head!’

The ewe bleats
staggers upright
drinks from the stream.


The Seamstress, 1849
-first published in Pushing Out the Boat Issue 13

He watches her,
small and sharp
like the needle
darting between
her fingers,

watches her tack
and sew and mend,
weaving in, out
in, out as thread
gathers pale fabric
and hides frayed tears.

He does not know
she bolted, crossing
the North Sea hidden
in the dark folds
of the aft deck—
Bremen, Bremen, Bremen
is all she can tell him.

What he does know
is that her dress,
with its threadbare
disguise of filth and regret,
had no place in the gutter
where he found her.

And as he watches tiny
sorrows bind together
her ancient, ragged gown
the more he sees of her

and the more
he wants
to unpick