Reading Seamus Heaney: District and Circle

by Kerry Hammerton

I’m tempted to tear out each page,
roll the language into bite sized balls,
masticate my way
through The Turnip Snedder and Wordsworth’s Skates,
curl my tongue around Edward Thomas
on Langdon Road, crunch into Nonce Words.

HarryBoyle and EamonMurphy and TeresaBrennan
and TommyDonnelly.

I’ve even thought of running a warm bath,
pulping the pages,
soaking in the exfoliation of his words.

Let poetry flow out my mouth.


Tell Me the Truth

by Kerry Hammerton

What is this love that I am longing for?
Will it be like a shaft of light in a crowded
forest or a gentle rolling fog that blinds?

Will it hit me full force – pile me up
like a car wreck? Or gently ease me
out of my life, like a tide shucking a shell?

A shimmy on the horizon that never turns
into a mirage? Will come without warning?
Will the weatherman predict its arrival?

Will it be like an uncloaked sun
that turns me into dust and ashes?
A love so fierce that the open

secret of who I am will be hieroglyphed
forever on my face. I want a breathing
space for words to filter through,

a skylight for the rain to fall on,
a staircase to tumble up. I want
to be love-sick in love, stained with love.

Poems of the imprisoned writer

by Kerry Hammerton

You write them in your head, pacing the words
as you step, step, step turn in your cell.

They graft themselves under your fingernails,
tattoo themselves onto your eyelids.

Some parts of them are frozen in the snow,
some parts tortured by your screams.

They leap over high walls and at night
whisper repeat themselves to you.

Near death they keep you alive.
They are the rain you never feel on your skin.

To Me at Sixteen

by Kerry Hammerton

Our hair is the same length,
parted on one side,
mine highlighted blonde.
I still have that lopsided grin
and the deep grooves
that run from nose to mouth.
My right thumb remains stubbornly
shorter than my left.
I am heavier but three inches taller.
You are wearing your school uniform,
black jersey over a blue summer dress,
stretching the school rules,
and me? I have become conservative
in ways that you could never imagine.

Puppy between feet

by Kerry Hammerton

from the Outland series, Roger Ballen 1999

The feet are misshapen,
as if someone haphazardly
moulded them from clay,
and breathed life into them
before they were properly formed.

These are not feet that you could kiss:
grime and callouses encase them,
halfcut malformed toenails,
blackened heels,
marked by half open sores.

And between these feet
a closed-eyed puppy cupped
in stained fingers.

Everything casts a black shadow,
the feet, the puppy, the fingers,
even the rough sack blanket
that hides legs and arms and bodies.

There is nothing to distract your eye.

Ode to the young man with broad shoulders

by Kerry Hammerton

What man or god are you? Roman
gladiator? The crowds roaring as
you lift your sword to strike your
opponent. Greek god? eating grapes
and sipping mead, fawned over
by adoring goddesses and demi-
goddesses as you converse
with the stars and moon.

To which god must I pray?
When I go walking in the forest
I will pick mint to sweeten
your breath, hawthorn
to nourish your heart. I will rob
bees of their honey. I will pick lilies
and violets, foamflowers, loosestrife,
toothwort to weave garlands for your hair.

How can I sacrifice myself? On
whose altar? I will be your
priestess,wear white, build
a temple on a remote
mountaintop; gold and marble
and a large canopied bed, and
when you come to lay your head,
I will worship those shoulders, lay
my head in the hollow of your neck.

Not Love

by Kerry Hammerton

No. Not Love. It wasn’t like that.
Maybe desire. Maybe lust.
Truthfully, you were just
a memory of someone else:

he caught me, tangled me
up, I was intoxicated, bedazzled.
I fell in love. It wasn’t just one thing,
like the expression on his face when
he saw me (bemused), or the hardness
and softness of his lips, or the colour of his
eyes (murky pond brown), the ease he had
with people, the seedy side of his lust,
it wasn’t just the arrogant slant of his walk,
it was more that that, it was the belief
I had made everything all right.

But with you, it was the memory of him,
a sense of something familiar,
a ghost in your smile,
a hint in the way that you walked
the ease you had with people.
It was maybe lust. Maybe desire.

And then yesterday you were standing
just being yourself, and I realised
you are nothing like him,
and that I could no longer pretend
that I want to be
within this, always longing.
I want you gone,
but most of all I want him back.

Winter is lifting away

by Kerry Hammerton

Winter is moving away, lifting
its sombre face, turning towards
the North, hungry for the bite
of snow and dark days,
hungry for gloves and long coats,
for skiing and snowball fights.

Winter is tired of this dreary
Southern winter, tired of cloudy skies
and grey rain, tired of cold houses
and unsuitable footwear.

Winter is weary of storms
thrashing against beaches,
weary of wind, of floods,
of creeping salt-filled fog.