In church

I sit at the back

near the oak door with black iron eyes

so I can slip the sepulchral semi-dusk

of morning service

at the first quivering croak

of the organ’s final refrain,

and turn my face, brazen, to the sun,

June air heavy and hay-sweet.

Here the cross-stitch kneelers are faded and thin.

Dust motes drift, a golden mist

where a stray day-beam knifes the stone-cooled gloom.

Those purse-mouthed women of the dry-cough flock

crane their hens’ necks round to stare my way

Sunday lace fluttering with offended virtue.

I gaze at the flowers,their vibrancy and wanton softness

stuffed into prettiness by their withered hands.

Far away in front you stand

alongside her in the allotted pew,

back of your neck under black curls

still red from the blood-rush of seeing me.

I remember you coloured up the same way

your face between my legs,

and I close my eyes

in my own kind of prayer…

And with something like a sigh

a rose surrenders her satiny weight;

Scarlet petals drop to grey flagstones

In a silent explosion.

~ Polly Oliver 2022

Photo by Ylanite Koppens



The tide spits up memories:
shining tears for lost things,
pearls from her vast oyster belly.

The candy-striped shell
or nacreous rainbow caught in a fragment;
precious casket for a tiny once-lived life.

Labyrinth worm-casts, ghosts in mud,
or haunting winding calcite tubes aboard whelk shell whorls.

Drifting bones of were-forests,
salt-honed to pale beauty
graceful graveyard sculptures at the dunes’ edge,

Sand under June sun exhales upwards,
Breath-warm brush of long-ago beach days,

Each hushed baby breaker, memory of a far-away storm.


(Written while out walking on the Welsh coast)

That feeling like you want to explode into stars with love for everything.

For all the transients, the glowing beauties that shine with everything they have for a heartbeat.

Sometimes you want to scoop it all up and shove it into your heart, or scrunch everything into the spaces in your brain.

Sunlight through petals of unpaintable colour, the tumbling crystal notes of a robin’s song…

And these cloud-birds floating past us, wing tips sweeping the blue of eternity before they dissolve forever.


Daffodil beams
into the bullying face of the March blast,
mouth a hoot of defiance,
shining companions at its back.
Alchemy of cold to gold.


He told her his last girlfriend was French;
Her name like rippled silk,
or low laughs in a favourite bar,
a name to be breathed against skin.

(Her own name lolloped.
Awkward but jaunty,
one for the hockey-pitch
or WI tea.)

He let slip unwary
that she’d left him for the girl
he’d made her share him with one evening;
smooth backs a quiet wall,
against his red-faced strivings.

In her mind they laugh in their bed
long limbs laced loosely.
Lipstick and cigarette smoke
the colours of her longing.

~ Photo by Anna Tis via Pexels

A thanks

I know I post extremely infrequently, checking notifications even more sporadically, wrestling with WordPress, time, inspiration etc.

So when people still read my poems and occasional ramblings, still engage with a like or a comment, please know I appreciate it wholeheartedly.

Particularly old blog-friends scattered about the globe. Thank you.

Waiting gods

Try to drown them in headline blare and traffic din,
blind them with slick flicker of the phone screen,
deaden awe with metaversal conjuring.
But the poets know them;
sulphur breath and blazing eyes in the lightning-blasted tree,
glacial indifference in the bird-skull turned to powder under the walker’s boot.
Smother them, in stiffening flow of a concrete prison with black asphalt ribbons,
square up to dreadful hidden faces with
empty temple facades of chrome and glass.
Take down their measurements with meteorologic chart or seismograph, pinpoint stars we will never see:
It will not help.
They speak in the creak of earth-plates, the soundless whirr of moth wings, the scream of buzzard over moor,
that our end will be swift and unremarked,
a squeak of the woodmouse snared in claw or beak
in the crushing dark of a moonless night.

~ Polly Oliver 2022

Spring evening rugby training

I wrote the following during our sons’ respective Wednesday night training sessions in Mumbles, Wales. It was the first light evening for a while. But still March-cold and the boys’ hands reddened still in a stiff east wind while scattered parents in woolly hats stood on the cold turf, hands shoved in pockets. I wondered what the birds passing overhead and settling in the tall trees round the ground would have made of it.

(The title will probably change!)

Spring Evening Rugby Training

Jackdaws idle in their broken zig zag
to roosts of ash or roof ridge –
which over-circle the dusking pitch.

Coach commands bellowed on steam breaths echo
to perched spectators in their vantages –
cocked heads indifferent to ‘Boys c’mon, you’re three tries down!’

‘Hold there! Hold there!’

Reptilian claws set tighter round bone -cold boughs.

Cock-eyed face of a puffy moon in darkening blue –
All fat lips, split eyebrows –
Peers down at the action.

Stud-torn grassroots bleed spring scents.
Evening sinks on, staining clouds antiseptic pink.

~Polly Oliver, March 2022

Fishermen on High Tide, Mumbles

The bay is an ink black bowl collecting drops of night
which sink to depths where scaled or clawed things scuttle and writhe.
Across the wind-whipped waste a galaxy’s dropped on the hills of the town –
Light sprinkled where concrete reigned.

Pupae-like in layers bunched against flaying gusts,
punctuating frozen railings which run to darkness, they cluster
in twos or threes, salty chuckles carried off on iced slices of wind:
Or alone, under dim flicker of headtorch and starlight, a meditation of waiting.

Silvering the black below, their prey.
I long to send warning of lure and barb
into the lapping dark.

~ Polly Oliver 2022