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The day he died,

his dog whimpered words,

the wind blew black,

snow blundered to a curve

over his rags and bones.


                 from  Elegy for a fenland skater by Ian Clarke






Mr Tuckwood


Back, then


Elegy for a fenland skater

Chevin Seasons

Fen Woman

Winter Walk

From a train






1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Ian Clarke


Fenland ex pat poet living in Harrogate. Published widely in anthologies, magazines and on line.  These include in Acumen, The Interpreter’s House and Ink Sweat and Tears. Latest book Owl Lit published by  Dempsey and Windle (2017). Previous collections include A Trickle of Friction (Hub Editions 2004) and A Slow Stirring (Indigo Dreams (2012)







Mr Tuckwood


Yellow caped, fingers numb,

traipsing to carbolic air again,

to the taste of blood and rust,

a barren desk scarred,

goal-posts fog-deep in mud.


Then the lazy buzz of summer -

a tan-smooth thigh, a freckled shoulder

mapping the breeze,

until I hunkered down again -


Plantagenet, Tudor,

how cobwebs were gathered to staunch and scab,

how his father came home from the trenches,

his growl throttle-thick, where he lay flush to the earth,

a hare snug in its form.


I remember his chairs on tables, fingers on lips,

his map of wind, seaweed, a fir cone

to tell the weather.


And how he crumpled,

how the afternoon darkened

to a fall of snow,

that he, finger to the wind,

said was on the way.


How walking home that last summer

across a field of wheat ripe with silence,

I thought of him, his name lichened, nettled

where dandelions and groundsel buckle tarmac,

take root, come up for air.






A toddler between strawberry-rows,

sitting where the tide wove kelp and shells,

a caterpillar thumb-thick on my palm.

But as a rainbow’s blue shower cools,

a breeze grows thick-skinned,

fog calls from the bittern’s belly.


Was it seals I could hear

when the wind was right,

or a cormorant,

darkness dripping from outstretched wings,

as the river unravels, loses its name

to a scarecrow toppled, to waders rising?


Is it the crack of a wave

on the gable-end,

or is it a death across unspoken fields

where loneliness hides:

a gunshot from a wordless farm

kicking against the moon’s bone?



Back, then


A lapwing jiving, you said,

duping earthworms up for air.

In your pond, frogspawn’s spermy wrigglers,

your lambs sharp and walking.


Up in your eaves mud-cap martins,

your scythe’s worm-holed shaft,

grass toppling over the blade.


On our evening walks, the river dew still,

the smell of cut grass and diesel,

us looking for bees

suckling late foxgloves,


to our favourite, a heron -

a woman in heels, you said.

Back, then, to the room kept for me -

you downstairs spry and doing,

chips in a newspaper cone.


But you’re still here, your shadow

in trodden snow, sweets deep

in a scarecrow’s pocket, leaving me

the wisp of your smile

as you drew faces on paper, slate -

the silence of snow.




Drug route, gun route-

nappies, cartons and bottles


below griffs and hags.

The moor a midden of muck, ash and offal,


the dead seeping into drains.

And by a cairn a sheep slate grey


hard up against a gale,

and the road east brake-light red


sliding down the valley’s throat

to Sheffield.




Elegy for a fenland skater


There he was drifting crows.

Picking stones for pennies,

his house where ivy tongues twist,

thicken to let shadows winter.

His last day walking the lane,

his silhouette’s outstretched hand

counting the posts home

to a darkness ripening under tattooed skin.


The day he died,

his dog whimpered words,

the wind blew black,

snow blundered to a curve

over his rags and bones.


When they came for him,

whisky steamed from his mouth,

a smile still warm on his lips,

leaving us a life lived at the tip of a scream,

tales of speed nose-to- ice,

as silence deepened

to a funeral sky frozen shut,

lilies loosening in a silver cup.



Chevin Seasons


Leaving dusk starved to a bark

and passing the river’s night-swim of shadow

cooling from low-hills,

I dash through the night,

my shadow darting a blizzard of wings.


Below the Chevin,

pet squares of wheat,

oil seed rape sears

and a crow scars the yellow.

And after the glut,


slow writhing smoke,

the river’s oily flame

laced with rumours of ice.

And as a grey wind blackens,

winter closes in,


but on the Chevin’s drift of shadow

snow-bones thaw to a shiver of cotton-grass,

to a boy freewheeling,

star-shaped and summer free,

tarmac bubbling the empty miles home.



Fen Woman


I walked to your house at the lane’s dead-end

where crow-flak sleets

and starlings scan the sky for rain,

then back to my room,

to the black snap of twigs

and the Ash emptying its shadow

on my crumpled meadow of bedsheets.


And I think of you

slipping through December’s day-long-dark,

your hands earthed in ice,

cold flooding the shivering distance home.

And I remember your gas-mask cobwebbed

in the shed’s creosote and cold,

your box of candles for when the light dies.


Back home, I watch from my window,

as grey splashes the pane,

and a wind-darkened sky weighs down the light,

leaving me to my dark-cornered room,

to a fall of snow, to the tick of cooling shadows.



Winter walk

A January sky dogwood-red,

the wind hoarse with ghost voices,

and on the path


shadows crumpled under frost

as we bite the shudder home,

headstones serrate the skyline,


and ice feathers the window

where you sat plugging strawberries

staining the ring that choked your finger,


leading us to the garden,

to dandelion-clocks blinded by your touch

and the grey air tasting of snow.




From a train


A red kite empties the sky,

a heron pins a glistening inch

and on the highest edge

a cloud rests its breath

and where the dark begins


a scream cools to black sweat

exits to blossom scattering small talk,

shadows browsing and a breeze weeping drizzle

as we slide west of Halifax

down the Calder’s throat


to Manchester.





Her hands frail and weightless,

her breath resting to keep the dark still,

remembering wood-smoke twilights,

the soft dark of summers.


Watching now wind-turbines bowl,

dawn and dusk blood-lit in her eyes,

knowing where the river deepens to wrecks,

where fish weave through drowned arches.


As a heat-haze dozes,

she walks the sea’s shallow start,

a cormorant skims the sun’s sleek echo,

two wing-beats take her out of sight,

leaving her footprints on cooling sand.


I remember that December night,

the cold at her house brake-light red,

in the morning her old dog scenting shadow,

birdsong buried under the silence of snow.


I remember too

notes we pinned to her oak’s bark script,

catching sticklebacks and grasshoppers

and cycling to the dark at the lane’s dead-end

to the old sea-bank, and beyond fields,

a dusk sky out-of-bounds,

the wind’s shadow wading through ripened barley.





Mr Tuckwood published in Poetry Village website

Flood published in The Interpreter’s House

Back, then published in Pennine Platform

Elegy for a fenland skater published View from Olympia: poems inspired by Olympic sports published by Half Moon Books, Otley, 2020

Chevin Season published in Owl Lit (Dempsey and Windle, 2017 and in A Surprise View (Half Moon books Otley 2015)

Fen Woman, Winter Walk, A57, From a Train published in Owl Lit (Dempsey and Windle 2017)

Friend published in Dream Catcher magazine


4 - Afterword

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