:: Article

Five Poems

By John Stocks.

In Dijon

A cottage hooded with pitch and thatch
The black, cat-scratched door
The heavy latch
Lanterns glimmering within.

I was sick here once and lay
In your grandmother’s bed.
A strange half-living thing
Still damp, I assumed
From her own death
As moist as country loam.
Rain lashed the windows
I ached for my home.

A few hours passed in fever
Tossing, stirring in a cold sweat
And, for the briefest of hours
Fleetingly I belonged here
Drifting, delusional
Between incense-drenched walls
Gazing at gaudy icons.

Until you came to take me back
To Dijon
Another of life’s ‘cul de sacs’


Last Orders

This is where the half ghosts gather
Nebulous, intimate with gloom,
Where time dissipates with tender sips
Of solitude or comradeship.

This is where bitter men drink mild,
In a hollow space God empties
With coffee spoons, separateness
As poignant as a parting kiss.

This is where reflection resides
Gazing into the fireside;
In the eyes of the old miner
Patiently waiting for his shift.

This is where last orders are called
On men who have given their all,
And tired souls are replenished
With cautious words, much left unsaid.



You saw her first
Her hands sticky with soft fruit
Her arms drenched in May
Pricking a thorn
From your soul.

She would never be more wild
More purely part of everything
All we touch and smell, see and hear.

You froze in blind, bewildered terror
As she blushed a shy half smile.


Seven Acts of Mercy

House Clearance

First he will salvage the old photographs
The half lit Edwardian drawing room,
A glimpse of another dimension
Fixed smiles from sepia-tinged faces.

The Shibboleth of all desires, here
Distilled in letters, old documents
Residuals and marginalia,

The shards of benign fragmentation.

He will protect the tiny girl that died
With her daughter, haemorrhaged after birth
And the soldier on the Somme, alluding
To the consequences of indiscretions.

He will keep the prayer books from the library
Boxes full of tissued medals, trophies
Won on distant sun kissed playing fields
Evocative of languid, post war ease.

And this long lost, blurred, half focused world
The loose plasticity of flowing time
He will store in a corner of his mind
Their heart beats, their tear stained miseries.


Moving On

No longer think of happiness
The most wretched of all deceits,
A blind alley of bleak goodbyes
This raw hurt will make you stronger.

Forget the doom poems, body and soul
Beyond the well of words you drown in,
Renounce foolish infatuation.

Today you will rise and stretch your mind
Noting, how the wind carries
The dense, dead scent of eternity,
It’s caress in the midst of it all
Imbued with the crisp fragrance of truth,
Reality, a most peculiar bliss.


John Stocks is a widely-published and anthologised writer based in Sheffield, UK. His work has appeared in the Cinnamon Press Anthology, Shape Shifting, Type 51, a Northern Writer’s Anthology and This Island City, a collection of poetry about Portsmouth. Johns’ poetry has also featured in magazines in the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Pakistan and India, with some of his work being translated into Urdu. Recent work has been published in The Journal, Gold Dust and The Montreal Review. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart prize.

In the daytime, John works as Head of Media and Specialism Leader for the Communications faculty at The City School, Sheffield. He is currently working on project with The National Portrait Gallery, producing song lyrics in response to the Shakespeare and JK Rowling Exhibition. He is also engaged in writing a collaborative novel. John doubts that he could live without writing poetry.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, March 16th, 2011.