Michael Shann

poet and printmaker

Birthday

 

Each sweet year since we moved here

I’ve walked out on the eve of your birthday

when we’d settled you all in your beds,

and in the dark March garden I’ve gathered

the fallen camellia blooms, big as rosettes,

pink and frivolous as blown wonders,

when held up to the stars,

from the ocean’s interstellar depths.

 

And if there weren’t enough blooms

I’ve plucked more blossom straight from the tree

until the bucket was pink brimming and ready.

Then I’ve dribbled a new number across the grass,

letting the wet waxy petals slip through my fingers

like the days we’ve had no days to remember.

 

And when the number was large on the lawn

I’ve stepped back, knowing it wouldn’t be seen

properly, in proportion, until soon after dawn

when you peeped between curtains

for proof of how old you suddenly were.

 

Published in Euphrasy, July 2012

 

 

 

 

Beatles lyrics, The British Library

 

The Magna Carta, Leonardo’s sketches,

the score for Spem in Alium, but

 

what stuck with me was the low-lit hush,

the felt-tip scrawl of Help feeling its way

 

down the page, the impromptu scribble of

A Hard Day’s Night on a boy’s birthday card,  

 

that something from nothing art emerging

through all the lovely slapdash crossings out.

 

Published in To London, 2017

 

 

 

Reading Homer in Poundland

 

Another dawn, ‘fresh and rosy-fingered’,

leads Odysseus towards Ithaca

 

and distracts me in the queue for the till.

How much is this? I ask. A pound, he says.

 

How about this? A pound. And this? A pound,

he says. It’s a pound shop. Oh, I mutter,

 

placing my book on the counter, hoping

he’ll weigh it against that first impression.

 

Published in Walthamstow, 2015

 

 

 

London Beards

 

No way! There’s WG Grace watching

the Ashes on a big screen at Euston.

 

And look! There’s Darwin queuing patiently

outside the Natural History Museum.

 

That could be Dickens crossing Southwark Bridge

on one of his midnight meanders,

 

and here’s DH Lawrence in the Vale of Health,

shades and shorts, looking like he’s still the man.

 

Published in To London, 2017

Astronomy

 

We look up to the moon and idolise the stars,

but forget the astronomy below our feet.

 

We send robots to juggle rocks on Mars

and point our panels at a distant heat.

 

Over four and a half billion years

our centre’s held six thousand degrees,

 

enough platinum and gold, we squillionaires,

to cover the earth to the depth of our knees!

 

So my love, when you’ve stepped onto the crust

of life, when your sovereign now is then,

 

when others are saying you should aspire

to some other self, and you’re all mixed up,

 

draw on seas of magma,  your inner fire:

look within, within, within.

Highly commended in the 'Poetry on the Lake Competition', 2016

Blakeney, moonlight

 

When the timpani, when the violins,

mine is one body among many 

prone in the gallery.

 

Still as seals on a wet beach 

in moonlight, waves of sound lap 

at the exposed summer night.

 

We enter the music as we enter a sea, 

wishing to be transformed 

in some small, elemental way,

 

eyes-closed-drifting through all

the little plocks and plinks, knowing

the deep static on our skins.

 

When the silence, 

when our immersion ends, we all stand 

and clap our flippers like hands.

Highly commended in Poetry Society Stanza Competition, 2019

Ice-cream for breakfast

 

Sofia, what would you like for breakfast?

Emm… ice-cream.

Pardon?

Sorry Dad. Ice-cream please.

Ice-cream! For breakfast!

Yes, ice-cream. Mint-choc-chip please.

You want mint-choc-chip ice-cream for breakfast.

Actually no. Can I have strawberry please.

Strawberry!

Yes, strawberry.

But you can’t have ice-cream for breakfast.

Why not Dad?

Because you can’t.

But why?

Because you can’t. Whoever heard of anyone having ice-cream for breakfast?

Me.

You?

Yes, me.

When did you ever hear of anyone having ice-cream for breakfast?

This morning.

This morning!

Yes, Mummy said I could have ice-cream for breakfast this morning.

Mummy did! When did she say that?

Just now. She said seeing as it’s a special day I can have what I like for breakfast.

But did she say you could have ice-cream?

No, but she said I can have what I like. And I’d like ice-cream.

But I don’t think she meant ice-cream. Anyway, why is it a special day?

Mummy says it’s twelve years today since she first gave you a kiss.

Is it? Oh yes, it’s the 9th of March.

Yes Dad. That’s why it’s a special day.

So it is Sofia. Come on, let’s have ice-cream for breakfast.

 

Highly Commended in Yorkmix.com Poems for Children Competition 2019