A year in poems

In 2020 we’re adding a poem a month to this website.  Each poem might say something about Airton Friends Meeting House, Malhamdale in general – it’s culture, history and landscape – or any current topic.  There’s no set format or theme but the poems could be thoughtful, funny or inspiring.  You can contribute by sending an original poem to airtonbarn@gmail.com and we’ll select one to display every month.  (All submissions must be original and carry no copyright restriction – please confirm this in your email.)

The author of September’s poem wished to remain anonymous – which is of course fine!  It draws on the tranquil effect of low sunlight crossing the Meeting room at Airton and compares it to the light of inspiration that can sometimes be experienced when waiting in silence, such as in a Quaker Meeting.

A Golden Light

Sometimes a golden light falls
across the door to a place made sacred
by silence.

Stroke by stroke the beams pass over
that room where thought is stilled and then

the glow illuminating faces and hands,
ordinary clothes and shoes, all things

while inward light reveals, what?
The centre of each one who waits
its telling.

Those who have gathered
these four hundred years
know how shared stillness
lays bare pretension;

and though its light makes the inward plain,
it answers certainty with questions,
leaving them

better known to themselves, whilst seeking
truth only of the world of experience,
not spirits.

Those who have gathered
these four hundred years
have watched those same sunbeams
waken, glide and fall away

as their world slid from day to night
and night to day.  Just as then
so we do now.

anon, 2020

A response to defenders of statues

When you can say with certainty
that the history you know
is the whole truth;
that no-one’s struggle is left out
and the triumphs of your heroes
are laid alongside their flaws;
then you can say
that British history matters.

If you can claim in honesty
that your place in life
has nothing to do
with circumstance of skin
or with the paths your ancestors took
through choice or by force;
then you can say
all lives matter.

Though we can say sincerely
that we value every person
and want to understand
what discrimination means;
until it’s clear
that the past is past
we must keep repeating
Black Lives Matter.

Steven Laundon


photo Evelyn Simak (Creative Commons licence BY-SA 2.0)

The place by the stream

Yesterday, the place by the stream
welcomed me in from my wandering,
called to by heron who flew
from the sun-infused rock where I came to be.

Midsummer mayflies rising and falling
like faeries with no concern for tomorrow,
dancing to lullaby of tumbling water,
my heart a dancing faerie among them.

A golden chase on the other bank,
three hares ran for play or territory,
their black-tipped ears poised,
white tails focused, darting.

Yesterday by the stream, mayflies, hares and I
Watched over by crescent moon,
each of us creating what it is to be
‘the place by the stream’.

Leila Bawa


Summer by a stream

Over the gate,
Wellies on,
Splish, splash, splosh,
Grab the biggest rock,
Add it to the bridge,
Splash, splash, splosh,
Step on the mound and…………
Disappointment comes,
Feels like ice,
Chilly cold water soaks till the top,
Make a bigger bridge,
Shiver from the cold,
Here it goes again,

Sophie Laya, aged 9


Aliens over Airton

This morning over Airton
an alien craft was spotted,
all smooth and shiny hanging
in the sky above our cottage.

The elongated saucer
had blown across the heath
and hovered now with meaning
while people brushed their teeth.

The upper side was glowing
with unterrestrial light
while underneath some shady moves
were making birds take flight.

It looked at first that someone
would have to send a greeting
and when the phones began to ring
we organised a meeting.

But just as soon as it arrived,
the saucer blew away
and now beneath the bluest sky
we went about our day.

Simon Watkins

The Kenspeckle Booth

From Airton village phone box, Stephen Craven (public domain via geograph.org.uk)

The kenspeckle booth
stands woebegone in muddy footings,
wearing foliage shoes.

Four tarnished crowns atop
three blackened panels,
a hidden fourth reveals TELEPHONE.

Smeary, virescent panes
framed by peeling, red paint
and mossy eyebrows.

Inside a green carpet grows.
Spidery plants propagate from dead stems,
flecks of red paint spatter the floor.

Two long term residents,
a cork and a taxi card,
detritus from a vespertine visitor.

Hidden scars stud the wall
where the coin box was ousted.

A faded number
an identity lost, severed.

The BT Piper leaps on his sign
playing silent notes
to a clutter of spiders.

Filmy webs span corners,
curling spiders spin and orbit
in the eddies of the breeze.

A heavy door closes
seals in the phone box domain.

The obscure booth
stands woebegone in muddy footings,
wearing foliage shoes.

Gill Petrucci

The Twittering Machine

Birds on a Wire:
painting by Beercp (public domain)

Cacophonies of birds are my reward
for hours of honest labour undischarged.
Not song, you understand, more nuisances
of sound deranged as if by accident

upon the tone-deaf ear. Larks ordered
like notes along some mad atonal wire
are what I see and hear. Unending lines
run parallel yet never cross to yield

the lightning charge, the shock of
knowing how and where and what
to pen, in sync suffused,
the ill-used, febrile muse.

It needn’t signify, for like Paul Klee’s
sequestered blind, the end may be
some existential trick played subtly on
the ever-waiting, hopeful mind.

Stephen Whitaker

In the eyes of God : Climate Change

I swish, I sway,
I stand, I lay,
The Earth is shrouded in light.

For here is me,
Behold, I see
A world of colour
Or black and white.

The end is near
For I am dying here
I feel no longer bright.

My plants are dying
And my people aren’t trying
I am now crying
The world is not a pretty sight.

Alice Peart, aged 10


Winters past

When winters past cloaked these grounds in feet of snow,
little did those who gathered
wish for anything more than a wakening flame
in the hearth.

To their chilled hands, the warmth of this Meeting Place,
walls and windows
dripping with the breath of
dozens or more, was a haven
from the storm.

Little would they recognise the green dampness
of winters now –
though comfort they would find
in our conveniences, fabrics and fortunes,
all welcome –

but we share these winters with them,
past Friends,
who though silent and unknown,
left us this hallowed space, this home from home
in Airton.

Simon Watkins