Barry Tebb

My First Poem in Three Years

for Alan Morrison, whose Emergency Verse inspired it

Mother in the mirror of another I saw you,

Bespactacled, bent, burrowing into a book

Like a mole snouting grubs in the churned marl

Your stick by your side, the twinkling in your eye

Always ready with a sly fiver to slip in my palm

And your dogged pride, a Durham miner's daughter

Bequeathing to me the ghosted template

Of Methodist Sundays, Hunwick the hamlet

You grew up in, seven siblings to share, speaking

A tongue I could never master except “Haway, man”

Your teetotal Bible-punching father, turned Quaker

In old age, taking me for walks down hidden tracks

To lost villages where the stones spoke syllables

To the doomed skies and museless I cried

With the wheeling rooks in their spring tide.

I learned your canny ways years after you died,

Lonely in London and exiled, when I saw your face

In the mirror of another I cried and cried

And would not be denied.

The Vandal

Someone has been tearing up the autumn,

Its ripped leaves ripple across the road

Flip like hinged cards in the moist grass.

The rain-varnished houses vanish in smoke.

Drift on the air like blown-out breath in gusts:

So we forget frog-ponds and nut-gatherers,

Remember instead that weather's for us

Who know well its intentions, wind-keen

Intense as the first frost hardening

Stubble grass to a tacky ice-blanket.

Listen! In bed we hear the swollen trees totter,

Dropsical-limbed, murmuring outside the window

Like Catherine's insistent ghost voice

"Let me in, Let me in!"

Barry Tebb © 2011