The Longhouse


Backlit by a flickering hearth

each room is a stage

applauding its audience.

Silence twines speech

into smoke-threads

the talk of wool and milk

twin whitenesses spinning

days into decades. Time

passes like a finger sliding

along a grained surface.

A pony returns riderless

snow coming down

warm bread in the panniers.

Everything unchanged

for a few more moments

the time it takes for the

snowflakes to fill footprints

coals to cool in the grate

oak beams to soften

leaving the roof nothing

for support but the attic’s dust

the house’s adumbrations.




Golden Plovers


He does not know the names

of the trees hooked into the sky

but their twisted forms are familiar

drawn by gales on the days that didn’t arrive

burned up in their own sunrise like golden plovers.


Now just the weightlessness of things

walls tumbled, the livestock all gone,

leaving only the torn edges of the fields

his square mile a sail ripped from its mast

left to billow overhead like golden plovers.


As he passes the twmp’s open mouth

he tries to answer his fathers’ questions,

tell them of seas beyond the whalebacks.

But, like them, he knows only long winters

and life concealed like golden plovers.


What remains as he is washed away

are the long days where he disappeared,

flowed out into the hill with the bracken roots,

his hours still there, waiting for the last light

to catch, when they’ll glow like golden plovers.




Across the Sound


Here is a gathering of those things

that constitute seabirds

the pipes, reeds, frets and strings,

and the notes produced – all westerlies.

From the cliffs you can hear spaces

in their music, narrow and infinite,

silences that draw voices in tides.


Now the white notes are blown

from the page, they wheel endlessly

suspended above this egressing sea.

And where next?


To the places not in need of names,

the blue isles merging into others,

adrift on a gyre, dragged by rivers

that flow from pole to pole.


Like us, once out of site

of the overwintered world,

they will dive into the dark

and feed.


James Roberts lives in the Black Mountains. He co-edits Zoomorphic magazine. Recent poetry has been published by Agenda and Cinnamon Press. A novella “The Man in the Mountain.” was published in 2015.