It’s been a few weeks and a lot of work, so today’s post is mainly going to be actual poetry.

First, I am delighted to have a poem commended in the Mother’s Milk Books 2013 Writing Prize. If you write, do check out the submissions page while you’re there.

I also have a spontaneous reaction poem up on the Visual Verse website. This site gives people an image to respond to in prose or poetry – in just an hour. Although I’m a little wary of making public work that hasn’t had the time/distance for full editing, I also relish challenges and trying something new. You can find my response ‘Heaped’ here.

The last few weeks I have also had some of my poems for the Born Free Restless Bones anthology project posted up on the Restless Bones Facebook page.

The poems – all for threatened species – are also below:

The Grey, White and Red of It

Hauled from its infinite blue ocean, slit
only by the soft arrows of flitting fish,

the lone whale shark now beached
on the factory floor. Oar-size knives

in its dotted grey back. Its belly cut
open. Guts exposed. Hacked up.

White slabs of flesh – for face creams,
lipsticks, healthpills. Or for the dead

delicacy of shark fin soup. The grey
and white of its life streaked with red,

oiling the hands of those already fat
on slaughterhouse riches.

Shadow Wolves

Their soft fur – moon white, black as a dark
night, or the grizzled grey of flecked slate –

was not made for stillness or the puppet
motion of stolen sleekness draped over

human bones. Do not be surprised if
the weight of absent flesh rests heavily

on the wearer’s shoulders or the skin
beneath starts to stink of rotten meat.

Death lingers in the shadowed fur.
Wild lives cannot be worn with grace

by those with no right to their beauty.

The Hummingbird Case

Delicate beaks poised,
elegant light-strumming wings
pinned unhumming
to a broken twig frame.

A filigree of holes, this lacework
tree of feather and claws.
Distanced, death’s plumage
not so brittle, so torn.

This case shimmers with lives
spun from sun, textured
with oceans, forests, skies…
What’s done is done. Yet,

even as I reach for the gleam
of these half-kiss scissor tails,
I feel silence cut.
To seize the beaks, tug them and…

my stillness snaps their wings.

[This poem was first published in Magma. The nineteenth century hummingbird case is displayed in the Birds gallery of the Natural History Museum, London. Many hummingbird species are now considered endangered and threatened with extinction.]

Unbound

In support of the Tiger, Tiger campaign to save this endangered species

There’s a tiger in the cathedral crypt.
Echoes pace. Even padded paws sigh,
claws stiletto-tap: metres of interlocking arches
less than a sweep of its tail.

A lit match in the wild, here its stripes
are a hanging of whites, oranges and black:
a brooding shroud for the tombs.
                                                     But its dying eyes
still burn brighter than candles on the altar.

Do not ask him to prowl the dark like a trapped cat
burglar. He will not lie down in stillness
to whimper and lick his mossed tree-stump paws,
claws etching his days into the cracked stone floors

of those who would cage or kill his wildness
instead of their own darkness inside.
No! Let him pounce from shadow corners,
leap against oak doors, bound up the steps, push

down man’s hand-built walls, break through stained glass, out
to the sunlight now untrapped from his eyes,
as he streaks across grasslands,
then weaves his flame through mangrove swamps

into the forest’s leafy wet denseness:
his symmetry unbound – and made for moving.

Last week, I also spent some time in Birmingham meeting Sarah Dixon, the Quiet Compere, and also reading at Jan Watts’s fabulous Poetry Lunch, which takes place every Thursday from 1-1.30pm at Birmingham Library amphitheatre.

My gigs coming up this month include:

Tickets and the full line-up for The Quiet Compere Tour, where I will be reading at the MAC in Birmingham on Friday, March 21 are now available here.

I’m also looking forward to my slot as a guest poet, alongside talented poet Helen Calcutt, at Poetry Bites, run by Jacqui Rowe at the Kitchen Garden Café, 17 York Road, Kings Heath. This night also includes floorspots, but arrive early to book them. Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7.30pm and tickets cost £5 (£4 concessions).

This post is longer and more about me than normal, as I have had my head so much in the MA that I haven’t had much relaxed time for reading. However, I have started, and am enjoying, both JL Williams’s Locust and Marlin (Shearsman Books) and Maps & Legends: Poems to Find Your Way By (Nine Arches Press). I hope to finish and write microreviews on these as soon as possible.