Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett

Hello.  Welcome to a new series of CITN.  We will be looking at the work of individual poets in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


CITN 48. This  edition features the poetry of ELAINE WALKER


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Then moors weather closes in to offer a damp embrace.

The hills leap closer with mist hovering at their shoulders

          and each sprig of heather stands out clear below.

Every lush and lethal bog shines bright green,

           and moisture soft as breath

           soaks you bone-deep in moments.


                 from Moors Weather by Elaine Walker





Davey sings


Glass Ceiling

Moors Weather

Tell Me a Moon Story


The Reader Looks up From Her Book

Hospital Corners

Christmas in Quebec







Elaine Walker’s writing is influenced primarily by her home on the Denbigh Moors, her long connection with horses and an interest in magical realism. Her non-fiction book, Horse, is published by Reaktion Books (2008) and her magical realist novel, coincidentally called The Horses, is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press (2010). She’s a lecturer in Creative Writing with the Open University and the University of Wales, and lead singer/songwriter with a rock band called Two Suns.









Davey sings


Davey sings of love and family, strumming the guitar his dad

gave him. Under the harsh spotlight masquerading

as atmosphere, the cracked veneer hums as he closes his eyes and

lifts his chin to let the knots in his chest unravel and

slither free between his vocal chords. His fingers ring the

harmonics of moments on the resonating strings as he forgets

the restless crowd, good-humoured but rowdy,

waiting for the rock band to come on.


Davey sings for himself and his cautious steps forwards, bold

yet scared, fending off the past with a plectrum and the scrappy

card he’s supposed to hand in at the clinic, but he’s written a song

on the back so he’ll just say he’s lost it and maybe

he doesn’t need to go there again anyway.





Betws-y-Coed, April 2009


Early morning.


Saturday brightness has hikers up and moving in big boots, laced tight to the ankles, while in the hotels and B&Bs visitors are still asleep. A few shops are already open and cars murmur past along the neat sliver of road, keeping the noise down for now.


Sunlight sparkles cheer through the smooth flow of the river as it reaches mossy rocks to shatter in bubbles and spray. Churning eddies and circles of foam catch in the lee of stones that punctuate the river bed. The world is green and slate grey while the white framed eyes of the houses watch and remember the gliding years.


Fine stonework and arched lintels are confident beneath an all-angles roof line, clambering over an imposing hotel frontage then dropping down to a new plastic conservatory – it’s what people expect, that and a bit of decking – before the gradual climb to the hip roofs where the twentieth century was grafted onto scions of earlier days.


Behind the buildings, trees have adopted cliff-footholds to take on a rocky future, quietly working their persistent roots through cracks and crevices to seams of water and scant food. New growth paints spring in many shades, bright as limes, pale as old moss, dark as Christmas, while still-skeletal branches offer a scaffolding to build summer around.


Energy rises, people are on the move. The smell of coffee blends with sharp air, water and the green scent of new leaves and old stone. Toast triangles on white napkins, a pasty in a paper-bag. Breakfast comes in many forms. The river runs a little faster and traffic builds as humans stir the pool of the day.


Boots, big boots, march up and down the grey pavements and across cobbles, mingling with trainers, loafers and hopeful sandals. Shop to shop they move, restlessly searching for downtime, then settle in a café or head up the winding lanes and forest trails towards the patient hills.


Big boots, big boots, big boots, marching steadily, causing blisters beneath chunky woollen socks, as humans, quietly drawn by the heart-strings, retrace their way to an older peace, looking up occasionally from their maps and sandwiches to glance at the land spread out before them like an offering in a generous hand.


Old town, busy people, nice-place-for-a-holiday, spring green, tumbling river.


Boots, big boots. 






Glass Ceiling


Jesus is trapped in a greenhouse. He can’t

get out, he can only knock at the door

and wait.

                               So, someone needs to open it.


But the need has changed and while he stood once outside a heavy door with a

rusted brass knocker and briars around the hinges, waiting

for the forgetful soul to admit him, today

he’s trapped

in a greenhouse. 

                                The world outside is

overcast and chilly, there’s a heavy mist

pressing down on faith. He’s in the glass house

but others are throwing stones.

                                                      The poor man preached love

thy neighbour and treat others as you’d like to be treated

so it’s hardly fair to accuse him of hypocrisy

and wilful supernaturalism. Health and safety breaches are

an issue, of course, and the risk assessment in feeding

five thousand people – well, someone has to do it but imagine

the difficulties he’s got filling in forms –

father’s name and job title must be an endless

headache, while where does he start

                                                             with qualifications?


So he’s trapped with

all eyes upon him, seeming useless because while

even the sky’s no limit, there’s a glass roof

and glass walls – it’s a problem.

                                                      He could

shatter them, of course, but he never was destructive, except that one incident in

the temple when he lost it briefly – he must be permanently

furious now but his light doesn’t even seep through the super-glazed, self-cleaning windows

of his new glass tomb.

                                                   Like Snow White, he’s waiting

for a kiss (preferably genuine) with glowing patience, ready to release all

that light and warmth into the chilly

grey world.


                    But someone has to open the

door and we’re all too hip to do that.


Poor man, he’s roasting in there.


It must be hell.





Moors Weather     


The moors stretch flat into the distance,

until your struggling feet learn

        that flat is a relative term, that

 small undulations, deep holes and hollows,

          sudden crags and thigh high bogs

make A to B the tiring route. Black-arrow crows

             fly ley lines overhead but there are

                    no straight tracks on Mynydd Hiraethog.


‘Hiraeth’ – longing, yearning, an ache in the heart -

       they are like that, these flat, not-flat peat moors,

             scattered with rain-washed sheep bones,

canopied by buzzard wings,

                      worming their way under your reluctant skin

                       while you think of softer places to live.

Places where the wind stops thrashing occasionally,

where winter is over before June and summer extends beyond July.

Places where trees are many and stand straight, not leaning

             alone, weather-crippled

             like Wordsworth’s leech-gatherer.


Then moors weather closes in to offer a damp embrace.

The hills leap closer with mist hovering at their shoulders

          and each sprig of heather stands out clear below.

Every lush and lethal bog shines bright green,

           and moisture soft as breath

           soaks you bone-deep in moments.


Moors weather, when blizzards rage for two days straight,

making you seal your family, home and animals

              safe inside as best you can

              to wait, and wait, and wait

          for the silence. The utter silence.


Then you venture out into a strange world

     of snow gate-high, swept into waves and billows,

               filling the lane and the yard,

           burying cars and human things.

Reclaiming the land as wild, destroying fences and phone-lines.


       Isolating you

                            in white too bright for seeing.


Except when fox-cubs catch your eye

   playing in the drifts or

an owl’s shadow crosses the snow-blanket where

       rabbit tracks and badger prints

                 remind you of the secret lives, unseen

                 alongside yours.


So you stay a little longer, brave a few more winters –

      long winters,

      short summers,

      no blissful spring or fruitful autumn.

Just moors weather,

            under your skin, niggling at your heart,

     defining home.                                                                                                                   





Tell Me a Moon  Story 


Make it cool and yellow-hued, with the

clear crispness of a frosty night, or warm

and balmy, a far away halo of light

in a deep blue sky.


Give me secret meetings, trysts and rendezvous,

lovers, highwaymen, poachers,

pining, lurking, prowling in the shadows.


Let me hear the vixen howl, the owl shriek

and the wild cry of the talon-taunted vole

in its small and lonely helplessness.


Lead me through forest glades in the pale light

where hard-edged shadows etch holes in the ground,

so I am afraid to tread for fear of falling

through their dark portals into



Lure me to the pool by the secret fountain where the

treasure is buried in the mossy spot touched by the

cool night light only once

in a generation.


Climb me up mountains

of white rock against black sky,

until we become like memories in a clear mind and

at the peak, beneath the hugeness

of the silvery face risen behind us,

we see the whole of the sleeping world.


Then slide me down the snowy slopes

beneath a wintry crescent like a scythe

that cuts through secrets hidden forever.


Tell me a moon story.








Through the kissing gate,

past the paddock with curious ponies watching us

slip and slither down the bank, to the

bridge over the trickle of the Afon Ganol.


We found a man in there once,

his hands folded on his chest and thought

he was asleep, at first.


Follow the path round the football field 

-  we had to keep off  the pitch -

to pass the sludgy moat-like ditch, guarding our den

in the tree roots, so slick and thick with mud,

that when my sister slipped, plunging

into its murky darkness, she went home

so filthy our mother didn’t know her.


Another bridge then, concrete with a rusty rail

that scraped our hands when we leaned on it to

watch the Afon Ganol, sluggish and deep now,

washing round the stems of the only growing bulrushes I've ever seen.


Through the field and along the path a little way,

then through the gate my greyhound cleared

in one soaring leap, while my friend's fat labrador

waddled, panting and amiable, at our heels.


The rutted track beyond climbed up

to cross the deserted lane to the field

with the wide stone steps, nodding cowslips and blue butterflies,

- that tiny pale type, extinct now -

then another kissing gate out onto the dappled road where

old man’s beard grew in the hedge.


I always gathered it,

but it fell to wispy shreds

in my summer-sticky fingers.


Then, at last, the wide swathe of trees

set back and down a little from the sweating tarmac,

where a rabbit trail led through the undergrowth

to reach our secret place

- broad slabs, bone-white and mysterious,

basking, stretched under the endless sun -   a limestone pavement

that only we knew about,


only us, in the whole world.                                                          







The Reader looks up from her Book


I’d not expected all this life

crowding against the neat and ordered

lines inside my mind.


Within the pages of the book clasped

always in my hand I hide, escape,

yes, I admit that, escape life’s disappointing


distracting, demanding energies.


This place asks too much of me.


The light reflecting on the water

dazzles and bewilders my remote

observing eye, shakes the sombre strictures

I embrace in the sweet relief of repressing

the clamorous heart


like a frightened bird quietened by

a carefully enfolding hand.


But here the birds fly high, grown raucous and uncouth

in light too bright and carefree, playing people, bobbing boats

light shadowed but not dimmed by

cloud, irrepressible, repellent, like a

cheerful, sunny face hatefully demanding that I step beyond

myself to become a reflection

of that tedious enthusiasm


which is too big, too big for

 a quiet mind to bear.


Let me be in that small place, where

the focussed heart

can burrow down inside

captured thoughts of a poet’s mind

safely fixed in print on crisp

white pages.


Here I find the reassuring sameness with

each reading

not risking self-possession


for the dangerous illusions of joy.






Hospital Corners


Marion thinks of hospital corners as she

tucks in crisp sheets for her guests. Her

nursing days guarantee neat nights

for those as safe in her care now as her

patients once were. She frames their breakfast

settings with knives and forks, picking tomatoes

for them from vegetable beds with right angles and

perfect straight lines then shuffles paperwork into

precise piles, carefully aligning the



Out on the moors I find the remains of a

shepherd's hut. Nothing left but four corners,

hospital corners, perfectly laid in slate by a

skilful hand, and I wonder if

she's been here too.





Christmas in Quebec


Icebergs float swift and sharp along the

St. Lawrence, calved upstream or formed from the

pressure of the wind against water already

shuddering with cold. The river has miniature

landscapes in crystal shards, scooting alongside the

road as though caught up in the early evening

rush for home.


High above, fairy lights shimmer red and green on the

knee-deep snow and shoppers slither well-wrapped on

icy pavements. The funicular railway lowers itself with

care down the steeply inclined drop to the old town. We watch the

ground rise to meet us then step out into gripping air, hurrying between the

huddled shops to order hot chocolate in stumbling

French, laughing because our eyelashes are frosted and

freezing breath has rimmed our lips with

ice like the shattered river.








An unobtrusive mound, just off a road too small to

number, surrounded by rowan trees – ah, druids – symbolism – ritual – but they

weren't there twenty years ago so a deep ancestral meaning

seems unlikely. 

              From time to time earnest types with round

spectacles and backpacks drive up to stand by the gate - nodding - then

duck back inside their cars out of the hanging cloak of damp

mist, pausing only to wind down water-speckled windows and ask if there's a

pub nearby.

                              I look at the tumulus and see nothing but a bump in a

field – maybe beneath its neat hummock, instead of bones and slabs of

slate, there are old engines and worn out tractors like there are in the cleft of the

valley below, where the rushing water has washed away the earth that covered

their passing.

But walking home under a blood moon, I see the

dark shape on the skyline and remember how the old lady at

Dolau claimed to see – on nights like this –  long-haired

warriors dancing, casting shadows around its

echoing silhouette.




4 - Afterword

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