I had a bunch of strange images in my head and they all came tumbling out while I was listening to a fire crackling on You Tube…and this poem was born. My family and I used to live in an old mining village right under the brow of the North Yorkshire Moors, so that’s where much of the inspiration came from.
A Morning In The North
I watch the ghosts
from my bedroom window.
I watch them congregate in the rain
around the old maypole, flat caps tipped
forward, lunch bags slung across torsos.
The pit ponies are gone, the mines long closed,
left as a greeting place for the dead.
From the bottom of our steep staircase
Dad shouts me. It’s time to break the fast.
He stocks the fire with damp coal and dry wood.
It spits out a song, drawing the dog close.
She is near enough for her fur to burn.
She’s always uneasy, until the rain moves
past the village, until the mist lifts and the ghosts
have moved underground.
If I crouch down and look hard enough
into the flames, I see a face smiling back at me.
I see fingers with curled nails beckoning.
But I never follow and I never tell.
The moon is still awake, kissing
the milky neck of the horizon.
In the kitchen, black pudding sits
on kitchen roll, slices thick and rusty.
‘The Vikings used to eat this,’ Dad says,
lifting me up to sit on the counter top.
I feel breadcrumbs and sugar stick to my thighs.
‘They called it blodpudding.’
I eat my cooked blood and oats in a folded
slice of white bread and butter. ‘It will make you strong,’
Dad says. I can taste iron so I believe him.
Outside on the wall sits the one eyed raven,
cloak of feathers soaked through. He watches me.
I save some crumbs of blood in the front pocket of my dress.
The cat took his other eye and hid it. The raven wants
it back and hasn’t left the wall since the attack.
The cat hasn’t left the house in days.
Outside, rain beats the walls
like a thousand angry axes against
a thousand wooden shields.