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.)

This month, our Friend in Residence charts a strange sighting over Airton one recent bright, spring morning.  Though whether lockdown inspired cabin fever has anything to do with this is anyone’s guess…

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
February 2020


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