Pennine Poets

Josie Walsh

Josie Walsh was born in Cambridge but has lived for most of her adult life in Wakefield. Her first public writing was a prize-winning essay on Cinema. After retirement from F.E in 1994, in response to a notice in West Yorkshire Playhouse, she submitted some poems to Fighting Cock Press as Josie Kildea. These were published and she was invited to join Pennine Poets. She has hosted their meetings since 2009.

A founding member of Wakefield's Black Horse Poets, after completing an MA Poetry in 2002 she was a Cathedral poet with several commissions. The publication of Pugneys Chronicle a sequence, led to a request to exhibit that poem at Pugneys Country Park; so started Under Glass, an outdoors poetry magazine which she edits. Her work has been commended in competitions and published in anthologies and magazines. She has published two collections, Breathing Space (2002), Another Breath (2009) and a pamphlet Here & There (2006). As a performance poet she has read at Ilkley, York, Wakefield and Adelaide, on Radio Leeds and most recently on ELFM.

Selected Poems

To Elizabeth Jennings

Hearing the wet tyres peel off the Oxford Road
I wonder where in the city you lived, exactly.
Where you walked and crossed the street and did your shopping.
I am staring at the house opposite, brick work
the colour of toast and I'm peeling fruit, cobwebbed
in strands of delicate white pith, sticky to the fingers.

The smell of satsuma fills the room; a jazz guitar
plays softly in the kitchen. The door,
of that house is painted purple, a good colour
in this soft light not brashly imperial
more the medieval mauve you see in old Masters'
or the Christmas card here, on my daughter's windowsill,
sent late from Donegal.

I am wondering now if, on the house wall opposite
what I can see is stripped ivy
or something with a secret
that in Spring will come greenly alive, perfumed
and extravagantly deep-blossomed.

And I am wondering too
about these kinds of days, when
even things I thought I was sure of
suddenly sheer off steep, surprise cliffs.
Or swoop into dark hollows, where love
stops beckoning and hope lacks the spur
through faith's winter soil.

You never married, yet speak volumes of love.
Lexicons of tenderness, prayerful praise, lavished
delicately like lapis lazuli or gold leaf. Poems
yours, are illuminated manuscripts.

Yet you were deeply modest. And it's said
dressed always in your customary woollen skirt,
hand-knitted sweater, hat and socks.
And even when you went off to the palace
and met the monarch, who gave you an award,
you made only the one concession to dress
and bought new plimsolls.

I like that fine regard for unimportance.
And the shining confidence, when earlier you wrote:
The poem is a way of making love
Which all can share. Poets guide the lips, the hand.

(First appeared in Pennine Platform no 61)

What It Was

                       It was sparks and embers and resolutions,
it was the sum of that week, the coming together,
the pickings of colour, the slender prunings, the waiting
for weather, for tasks completed, the shrivels of frostings.
It was the small beginnings, the patience, the stacking
of this and those pieces, the collecting it all, the building it high.
It was also the end of a season and more.
It was made of pest that diseased the apple, the wind-felled giant
of the fig, fruit in the cleft of its branches, the ghost gold
of the toppled laburnum. It was the thorn of Peace roses,
their two-colour yellow. It was its own flare, remembering
its roar, returning its heat. And when it was lit, it was homage
to time spent, giving and filling the place with its ordinary incense.

Loaded in W.A.

Remember Woolworths...that emporium of childhood
penny presents, a foreign stamp or two, sweeties
from a row of big glass jars, portioned in a screw of paper?

This antipodean cousin has muscles bulging. Carnivores
stalk the aisles. Rows of red flesh, spread and cellophaned.
Racks of lamb, chops, steaks for barbies. Kangaroo joints
slapped against see-through plastic as if murdered at full leap.
Blood spatters corners of the pack.

Bags of flour here are outback size, eggs come
in two dozens and bacon slices stack in packs,
the shape of picture windows. Celery is stalked
small trees, asparagus is quatermass, some blanched
like early buds, some painted purple-tipped.

Shiny Sundowners, Fijis, Pink Ladies grin in descending rows.
Giant avocados jostle tomato globes, close to capsicums
yellow, orange, green; bushy broccoli, beach ball cabbages.
Produce of Australia in a store where supersize is normal,
serious over plenty, everyday.

We toy with purchases, as tourists do; tea bags, milk,
orange juice and water; unpack them in a borrowed kitchen.
And on the breakfast radio a voice announces: Police

are employing machine guns to ward off fishermen from
Indonesia, said to be setting up shacks, along the western
seashore, together with their cats, dogs. And their birds.

(First appeared in Pennine Platform no. 58)

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