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Paul Bavister
Paul Bavister

Paul Bavister is a tutor on the BA programme at Birkbeck and also teaches at Oxford University. He has published three collections of poetry, the most recent being The Prawn Season (Two Rivers Press). The work included here comes from the new Two Rivers Press anthology Reading Poetry.

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The Hub Presents: Paul Bavister


Jackdaw

 

A spiny chick, slate grey in white ash

struggles from the fireplace to your cupped hands.

The chimney rustles with another nest.

We both know I should have netted the pot –

your sigh says I’ve been mollycoddled,

I’m soft, washed out, washed up.

You wrap the chick in a cloth.

I bring a pinch of cat food from the fridge.

 

By autumn I’ll forget to knock out the nest.

Then you’ll stamp from the smoke filled room

point at the chimney and curse me.

This year’s jackdaw will have joined

the others swirling up on your rising heat

then dropping at your feet to be fed.

You will curse every chick you’ve turned

into tatty, stinking, useless birds.

Ghosts

 

These mushrooms will give you

a never-again hangover, missed

heart beats and suspicious lumps

under your arms. But these

feed you when you’re fearful

of another meatless, beanless meal,

when your hair starts to blow

away in the winter wind.

So we search where the last

bark chips have spilled across

muddy grass, we peep up

from the carpark’s edge then

run to the spinney of thin

birch trees. It’s here that

you’ll find the givers and takers

both opening their sticky caps,

wrinkled stinkers pushing up

from buried beams, burnt boards.

We Laugh Without You

 

I’m up and down the wooded slope

bundling sticks, dragging logs

piling them against the freezing house.

 

Black pebbles slip from the flooded bank

grit pours from the tree root steps

the muddy path slips past parsnips, beets.

 

It’s a time you would have called the salad days.

Not prepacked, washed but scorching cress

alive with bugs in soggy bread.

 

You might have dug us free from this mud

stopped theorizing about what we’d lost

worked harder, faster than the food we ate

 

given us time to sit for an hour and let

our wrinkled skin dry out. Or you might

have sat by the fire and eaten up

 

every spare mouthful, kept us working

into the soggy night. All I know is

that without you we often fall silent,

 

every slice of the spade goes slower,

we’re not sure what is planted when,

when we laugh we laugh without you.

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