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Up here, cold is the landscape;

rain the absolute norm.

And no pissing about with mizzle,

drizzle, mist – we shove


through solid water

that holds us lurching

at gravestone angles

across bucketclanking farmyards


                 from Nesh by Char March







The Finding Of Parts


Lest We Forget?

I Wonder What The Japanese For Top Withens Sounds Like


This Is Where My Hands Used To Be

If I Ganged Oot Wi’ Ma Deid Pals

“They just use dogs to get more dosh – it shouldn’t be allowed”

The Arkengarthdale Artemis

Another Box Of Nipples Arrived Today





1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Char March


Char March is a multi-award-winning poet, playwright and short fiction writer. Her credits include: a short story collection (Something Vital Fell Through), five poetry collections (incl The Thousand Natural Shocks and The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out), six BBC Radio 4 plays, and seven stage plays.  She has been published widely in literary journals and anthologies in the UK and the USA.

She has featured on BBC TV and radio. She’s been Writer-in- Residence for:  Leeds Hospitals Trust; Ty Newydd (the National Writing Centre in Wales); the award-winning Pennine Watershed Landscape Initiative; Hull University Business School; and the NHS in North West England. 







The Finding Of Parts 


I thought my granddad

a sailor of The High Seas, for,

in my picturebooks,

only pirates had tattoos,


and scars.  He played along

with my stories of the ink

blurs on his arms, ‘Arr, Jim Lad.

Doubloons and a purple parrot!’


Thirty years later, I found

the dusty box of tapes; got

the reel-to-reel machine

working again.  Heard


my dead father’s ‘One-Two, One-Two’.

Then granddad’s gravel

spooling out:  the quivering

candle in the dug-out;


the Quink Permanent in a tin mug;

the needle passed round;

the extra ration of rum;

the wincing of each lad.


All that week his platoon

had been on Collecting Duty out

in No-Man’s – picking up

bits of their dead mates,


and failing to match them up.


So each unique design was scraped

into him by one of his KOYLI mates;

into each forearm, each bicep,

each calf, then torso, back, neck. 


They’d each sat, bleeding, proud

they’d faced the pain; puffing

on Navy Cut.  And then,

tongues pressed between teeth,


drew on the fly-leaf of their

1915 Soldier’s Diary, each tat.

Here is the stick-figure he drew

– transfixed with arrows –


my granddad as St Sebastian.

At each arrow’s flight-feathers

a cramped sketch that meant:

Private John Henry Taylor’s


left forearm, right calf, …


‘It was summat we could do’

granddad crackles from the tape

sucking on his pipe, sucking again.

‘So we could be…’ A rattling cough.


‘So all of us could be safely gathered in.’

And then there is his dry laugh,

and the tape – softly clattering

its red tail round, and round.



(KOYLI = King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry)






Last week, they said it was cold

in London. A thin bit of mizzle

brought them out in a rash

of umbrellas, much buttoning.


Up here, cold is the landscape;

rain the absolute norm.

And no pissing about with mizzle,

drizzle, mist – we shove


through solid water

that holds us lurching

at gravestone angles

across bucketclanking farmyards


and out onto the moor.


Our air is luscious, alive, viscous,

slapping us awake

like a wet cod

across our chops.




Lest We Forget? 


This quiet graveyard is now eulogised

as ‘wildflower-friendly’:  Eggs-And-Bacon

thread through Ladies’ Bedstraw and Self-Heal.


The Norman porch displays a list

of the ninety-two lichen taxa

Found by the enthusiastic British Lichen Society


including the rare Porpidia soredizoides.


We stroll through knee-high Yorkshire Fog

and Sweet Vernal Grass mouthing

the graves’ names, their ages.


Turn a verdant corner and

come upon them:  scoured,

buzz-cut, rawly new.


Do they want this regimented scrubbing?


This forever standing to attention:


Why not let this 19 year old, this 22 year old,


this Private, this Lieutenant develop a skin

of lichen, a suit of moss, a softening

of bird-splatter? 


Do they want their grasses and wildflowers

shaved to within a millimetre of their soil?

Does this six-monthly assault with electric sander


comfort them?


Or do they wish to rest, to lie

hammocked in the curve of the earth,

to become one with the bearded graves


that cluster round them, that lean in

like ears, like hands ready to soothe,

while the soldiers stand to attention


in uniforms stiff with bleach.




I wonder what the Japanese for Top Withens sounds like


Today a 67-year-old woman

from Nagasaki wept


on my shoulder, sobbing out to me

her longing to stand here since,


age 13, she had devoured

Wuthering Heights, hearing


the moor wind, and Cathy’s longing,

in the sound of Shinto temple bells


and the parping traffic

on the Shianbashi road.


We stand today, my arm around

her tiny waist, as she dabs her eyes


and smiles and smiles

and we listen, together,


to the bubbling trills of curlew above

and the heavy breath below of


The Keighley and Worth Valley

steam train and


to Kate Bush warbling

from the Bronte Balti House.






I sow crescent moons

from his laid-aside glasses,

him snoring in the wing-chair

while I read his letter

open on the blotter.


I am sun, hatted with red cloud.

I play with the ceiling,

cobwebs, cracked cornices;

give sideways glances

to the curtains,


open, and letting night

look in.  While, suspended

in the dark garden,

my pale twin

flickers with rain.




This is where my hands used to be 


Vapourised de-fusing the booby trap. Took

a goat with them. I kept the other guys safe

though. Maybe there’s a goat Jannah

with extra good grass.


The CO found my left thumb. Stuck to the APC’s

windscreen. Looks just like my Dad’s. The Doc

gave me the formaldehyde. Said this Damien guy

made millions from dead stuff – floating.


Quite a few ops. But I’ve got great stumps.

Never get chafing from these new pincers. They

can grip an axe now.  Before, I had to use dynamite

to turn trees to kindling.


Last time I was down in Glasgow, they said touch

might be an option.  Damn near cried.  That’s why

me and the wife split.  Couldn’t feel her.  But

touch, eh?  That’s well worth fighting for.




If I ganged oot wi’ ma deid pals

For Rita Boomi-Pappá, and all the women who have died from ‘domestic violence’



If I ganged oot fur a gander wi’ ma deid pals,

the hale toon wud be stowed oot wi wheeshtit folk.

Yon air wud be mingin’ wi’ corpse stank,

ilka castle an’ broch wud pit thur guid white breeks oot oan sticks,

an’ uvry’hin’ oan uvry brae wud stap.

If I ganged oot wi ma deid pals.


If I ganged oot fur a gander wi’ ma deid pals,

yous wud see wan thoosant lassies

thur burstit breests fu’ wi’ pain.

An’ yous wud hear theym whisperin’ at yous:


How come did yous send us up the stair sae soon?

How come did yous no gless theym fit cum fur us?

Whar wur yur shivs, yur Glasgae kisses – eh?

How come did yous send us up the stair sae soon?


Yous wud see aw that, an’ hear aw that,

if I ganged oot wi ma deid pals.


If I ganged oot fur a gander wi’ ma deid pals,

Theym lassies’ hair wud lash aboot like flags oan the Firth.

An’ Cameron Squeezebox and Black Dan the Piper wud greet

hot, salt herrin’ tears – aye, baith o’ theym wi sunket e’en.

A’body wud see the fu’ moon gangin’ awa up

like a flo’er frae a bride’s band.


An’ loads ay yous men wud fa’ doon deid!

If I ganged oot wi ma deid pals.




“They just use dogs to get more dosh

– it shouldn’t be allowed” *


This is my person

He sleeps beside me


I have had him for two years

I found him in a Waitrose car park


I brought him some newspapers

My person likes newspapers – and cardboard


He gave me a cream cake from the bin

He tied himself to me with this string


This is our home

It glitters with smells


It is best in winter

Then the metal tubes blow hot air


In summer it is cars’ barks

And there are loud people


They come and kick my person

They try to kick me


Sometimes he is sick

I usually eat his sick


Then I take him to the big place that echoes

They give him a hot bowl


They give me crunchy bits and a stroke

Then they scare my person with pieces of paper


He takes his cardboard

He takes my blanket


I lead him back home


* Heard on a BBC Radio Leeds phone-in about people sleeping rough in the city.



The Arkengarthdale Artemis


Crossing these moors has to be done lightly

with a quick tripping trot for

sphagnum hummocks disguise

peaty soundings deep as submarines.


The ping-ping sonar of curlews traces

from open blue to the sucking dark,

deep and brown – tender as cows’ eyes.


This bog’s surface is soft;  yielding as an udder

licked pink and steaming by your hot rag. 


For months of milking-times I lie on the lip

of Calver Clough to watch you, glistening

with steel buckets and rain, in sun and moon. 


Your boots clump out your criss-crossing care,

calling your herd of ladies to you – all leggy

sweet-breathed and long-lashed. 


Calm under your touch – the crown of your head

firm on their flank – they let down their calves’ milk,

yield to your hands.


I lie in the tormentil on that dip slope, and I plot.


It is behind the Methodist chapel I finally bring you

to ground.  I stand close by the waterbutt

to watch you tuck a wilting handful

of hare-and-hounds beside her headstone.


Then follow you into the furniture-polish hush

of the pews.  And, when enough minutes

have been spent watching your bowed head,

I huff on your bare nape. 


Your tractor keys are a feeble talisman.

I take them from you, drop them onto stone. 


You shift and shuffle against me; 

uneasy as in an unknown stall.

But I am breathy-warm and sure,

and my hand’s a gentle lead,

helping you find your way to me.



Another box of nipples arrived today


The hospital computer’s gone mad

– that’s the third box this week. 

You stick them on the fridge door,

the phone, the handle of the kettle.

And we laugh.  Then you are sick again.


This evening you sit in your usual chair

in the bloat of chemo, your breath really

bothering you.  And me, if truth be told.

You are darning pullovers neither of us

ever wear – and even Oxfam won’t take.


But what if I could give you a new pair?

That will always pass the pencil test, even

at 90;  with winking dark aureoles

and pert tips that tilt cheekily, but

don’t show through your tennis dress.


You are muttering about camels

and licking the thread for the nth time;

specs half-way down – in your usual chair.

I don’t see hacked-at womanhood,

that you’ve sobbed salt-herring barrels for.


I see you.  Darning your way to normality.






The Finding Of Parts 

(Published in Agenda’s ‘Requiem’ issue, Autumn 2014)


(From ‘The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out’ – Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2012)

Lest We Forget? 

(Published in Agenda’s ‘Requiem’ issue, Autumn 2014)

I wonder what the Japanese for Top Withens sounds like

(From ‘The Thousand Natural Shocks’ – Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011)


(Published on YorkMix poetry site, summer 2014)

This is where my hands used to be 

(Published in Prole, Autumn 2014)

If I ganged oot wi’ ma deid pals  

(From ‘The Thousand Natural Shocks’ – Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011)

“They just use dogs to get more dosh – it shouldn’t be allowed”

(Shortlisted in the SASH ‘Homeless’ poetry competition – Dec 2014)

The Arkengarthdale Artemis 

(From ‘The Thousand Natural Shocks’ – Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2011)

Another box of nipples arrived today

(Published in four different anthologies)


Other Publications

Ridge Walking – Pankhurst Press (1994)

Deadly Sensitive – Grassroots Press (1999)

The Crisis Collection – Grassroots Press (2001)

Some Girls’ Mothers – Route Publishing (2008)

The Thousand Natural Shocks – Indigo Dreams Publishing (2011)

The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out – Indigo Dreams Publishing (2012)

Something Vital Fell Through – Indigo Dreams Publishing (2013)

6 BBC Radio 4 afternoon plays broadcast

7 stage plays produced, with one touring nationally


4 - Afterword

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