New poems by Graham Mort


Three new poems (and one older) by Graham Mort, illustrations by Claire Jefferson.



A Swallow Maybe


It falls into the orchard’s


from Africa’s parted

veil of heat

a blue knot of lightning

splintered from icy


surprising the

suddenly crackling grass


then slants between

trunks of pear trees

mossy and ingrown

sparking between

pylons and power lines

their toxic chitter

their stanzas of unformed



it turns our heads’

heliotrope bloom

of astonishment

unpinning its brooch

of lapis from

the afternoon

a foil for certainties

that steer into dusk –

those oyster catchers


the salt-dazed mirage

of the estuary


now it is flown into

the copse like war

its red throat silently

booming and aflame

scattering wood sorrel

into the gloom

shy and self-amazed


its cry is high-wired

drawn beyond anvils

to the thinnest


most inhuman note

on which it vibrates



between the synapses

of our eyes:


a thought split

between us


lost maybe

or never








A black spider on your hand, uncannily

there, dropped from the nowhere crannies


they haunt; a hex, a silky tightening

in your gut, a momentary sense of fear


that you shake loose until you Google it – a

black lace weaver abseiling from vernacular


taxonomy: cave spider, crab spider, false

widow, stone spider, grass spider, hammock


weaver, green huntsman, purse web spider

pirate spider, grey wolf spider and the


zombie spider already half-dead in its fungal

shroud. You remember in autumn those


big house spiders scuttering across the

carpet, the way you coax them into empty


mustard pots with a magazine, juggle them

into wet geraniums on a star wild night


of owls and shrieking trees; remember how

children torture them for some primal sin


hysterical with laughter wrapped in dread;

remember how they rejuvenate as dreams –


gentle, furry, quick, undead and many-

legged with multiple obsidian eyes, their


jaws softly venomous, their funnels and

webs and guy lines visible only in fine


drizzle or falling dew or sweat on the

faint moustache of a boy you knew.







A sycamore seed on the roof outside my window

stuck to slates wet with rain. Little insect wing


if I could enter your vortex of air, I’d be inside that

giant tree in the legend of our childhood, its green


froth of flowers, forked trunk and rope swing. We

queued in the dusk to launch out over beaten


earth, the mill across that foul brook at the town’s

edge spinning and lit like an ocean liner humming


with work. We carved our names in its bark, knowing

our scars would heal and merge with those of the


dead, prising off flakes to find brooched ladybirds.

When we looked up, the branches filled with clouds


or stars or the caged moon. Dry seeds whirled to

chance existence, catching in our hair, our hands


burning on the hemp rope, our knees smirched

by another summer, the tree’s umbel soaring


above us and above that the infinite nearness

of sky with its long climb to heaven.







There are the red cattle, woken

from a cave painting, daubed

with red clay into an old religion

waking with rooks to stand

in the pearl-soaked grass.


The red cattle lower their heads

in the sun, walking into their own

shadows, their hooves churning

soft clay in the skim-milk blue

of this September morning.


They watch us, the upright ones

our round faces, our stick bodies

walking through yellow sow thistle

and caked slurry in wet boots

made from their pelts, stepping


inside them, supple gods killing

the time they tread so slowly

and with such certainty. The cows

groan under the great red bull –

daughters and dams of red clay –


their hides flinch under flies, their

genes mapped on a spreadsheet in

the farmhouse with meat and milk

yields, their thoughts slipping to

extinction, evaporating into


the long pasture of the future. They

watch us, the red cattle, walking into

our own shadows, our thoughts flying

ahead of us, our feet slipping in the

wet clay that furnishes us. Amen.






A Swallow Maybe was previously published in Visibility, New and Selected Poems, Graham Mort, Seren Books, 2007.


Graham Mort has published ten books of poetry and three collections of short fiction. He is emeritus Professor of Creative Writing and Transcultural Literature at Lancaster University and lives in North Yorkshire. His latest publication is Like Fado and Other Stories, Salt Publishing, February 2021. Read more about Graham on his website, or follow him on twitter.


Claire Jefferson is a landscape painter and poet living in South West France. She writes under the name Stella Wulf and has two pamphlets, After Eden, published in 2018 by 4Word Press  and A Spell In The Woods, an illustrated pamphlet published by Fair Acre Press  in February 2021. Stella is co-editor of 4Word Press. Read more about Claire on her website. Follow her on twitter.


Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.