Click on the photo to listen to an interview with Penny
Making a winter coat
I am bringing these things to you, memories from the stone house
where we walked out from doors to moorland.
I, a child of violet heather who gazed over the backs of sheep,
who saw big skies in small shoes, where light expands forever in skulls.
All the potions and herbs were gathered into a pouch, a daily duty
like baking bread. I, a child am bringing these things to you.
When time came to knit the fur from heather buds and sheep tufts,
to card and comb them by hand and fingers, it was always in the light,
the spotlight on bog pools full of rain.
Here was the act of making the coat, the girl to woman,
the waking nights of visions, the seeing of dark sky,
Orion’s belt, the Bear, stars to pluck, to pull down knowledge,
to weave them as jewels into fur and skin.
I, a child weave yellow gorse flowers, cotton tops, black juniper berries,
to proof the coat, to grow me, to humanise me into new skin.
Here then, I bring my coat to you.
Girl in a passionflower dress
She remembers those small birds,
the enchantment of such feathers,
their flash of turquoise, cardamom,
blinding yellow, carpet green,
pure bright white, the depth of black,
occasionally a streak of liquid blood.
She’s at home in her wired cage
where a pedestal is a substitute for sky.
She still dances when her eyes are closed.
In her passionflower dress she forgets her mouth,
how often she had spoken in tongues, how often
she had hugged all those sweet birds.
She forgets to copy, be a parrot or budgie,
follow the path of an upright flight.
She misses their beaks of song,
their cut-throat ambiguities, so called love.
She has a lump in her throat, it won’t go away.
All that panic in the room when they went mad,
feathers abandoned to the parquet floor.
She misses the routine of feeding time,
bird seed and ego comforting. She’d rather
play alone in her passionflower dress.
You sit writing in your medieval Paper Blank.
As usual you’ve crossed your right leg over the left
and your eyes follow a pen across the page.
Your chest moves up and down, each breath
conjuring an image into a word. It’s like painting
a masterpiece, hearts attached by a scarf of gold leaf.
So finely hammered by unknown hands, the yellow
sheets gild our thoughts and bind emotions. Even when
you’ve left the chair or travelled the length of England
the elasticity of love stretches and we are never apart.
When you open your mouth to say three words only
I gobble them, the golden leaves, the rocks and stars.
sings a lullaby to her long thread of secrets.
Many have begged her to give up her oral tradition,
a woman’s mouth to a child’s again and again.
She stands at the edge of the land and sings.
Her life sacrificed to the brown dull keratin,
shape-shifter to gold in the light of days.
She says it’s Jason’s golden fleece,
Solomon’s robe, Nefertiti’s bangle,
jewels for a Pharaoh or Pope.
By moonlight she dives into grassy lagoons
to cut thin fibres from a clam’s beard. She says,
I am the last woman on earth to keep the oath.
She weaves the strands with her fingers and nails,
her human shuttle, she embroiders magic
like Mithril into bracelets, wedding vows and veils.
She sings spells into her daughter’s ears who says
she wants another life, needs her own life,
says she cannot love her mother’s way.
was all that was left on the patio,
a memory of flight, song of a breeze,
her last imprint on the hard flag.
We watched her scat from the pink
anemones to red snapdragons, her aim
for each landing pad of yellow dust,
precise, her gold mine. How delicately
she courted every stamen with her proboscis
programmed for the collective. We didn’t see
the battle, or hear the dog’s mouth snap tight
over her honey-haired substance, it was just
the wing you see, exquisite fan that knew
about air, balance, timing, all that was left,
snow to water, flesh to soil, the stars.
She started collecting hearts
wooden ceramic glass crystal even straw ones.
She picked up her pen and drew the shape over and over.
She filled each room in her house, she lay them on the floor,
glued them to the ceiling, put them under her pillow at night
to dream about hearts, maroon, silver, gold, black hearts.
She hung them in windows, reflective hearts to catch
rainbows, all the light needed to cure each broken one.
She made paper origami hearts folded so small she could
carry them always in her pockets, purses, socks and bras.
Her life became full of hearts; that kind of softness found
in running blood, lost blood, finished blood, memories of blood.
She took her hearts out into the Pennines, drove them fast
over Saddleworth Moor into clear air, ice and snow.
When purple heather bloomed, when cotton tops waved,
they laughed at all her happy-happy hearts.
She took her hearts to dance, threw them onto the sprung floor
and worked them into the rhythms, into flow, staccato, chaos,
lyrical and then stillness, quiet, the stillness, calm
the stillness of pumping hearts. She took her
hearts to the edge of the land, to sand and conch,
to dulse and pebble, to hard granite and soft limestone cliffs,
to crashing waves, the moon waters. She set her hearts adrift,
a message without bottles, clearly absent of any words.
Let me tell you about the rookery, how I long to feel at home.
Imagine those tall trees, the wired acts of creation from a scavenger’s lifestyle,
how all those loose things, twigs, leaf, bone, become palaces.
How I long to be amongst my tribe. Imagine the flock of it all,
the roller-coaster, big wheel inhalations, that dream of adrenaline:
down to the arable, up to the nimbus and squall.
Can you imagine that taste of happiness, the belonging, the common rook
of it all, the symphony of rook-call in your ears? How I long to beat
my wings again in time to a memory of change and fledge, heartbeat of bird.
Imagine the vastness of sky, the stories of nest and blueness, all those pecking days.
Imagine all of that going on and on and never leaving your side.