New poetry by Andrew Forster


Silverdale Shore


Signs warn of Quicksands, Fast Incoming Tides,

Floods. It’s a landscape in flux,

hard to get a purchase on the sliding stones:

mainly limestone, grey under flat cloud

but migrant remnants of sandstone

are scattered, carried in by the waves.


Footsteps impress the wet sand but it smooths

itself clean, pushes them off. A strait,

silver in the trapped light, bars further passage.

Across it, oystercatchers pipe along their new

territory. Boulders covered in bladderwrack

guard the beach, make claims to permanence.


Up the beach a sandstone wall, crumbling

to pinkish powder, is reclaimed by tide

and weather. Steps climb towards a garden.

Shards of limestone, shunted by the sea,

cover the first step and litter higher ones

like signs left by a careless intruder.


A hawthorn pleads from the cliff-face:

stripped of bark, its hold so loose

a breeze will shift  it. The first drops of rain

pit the shore. The yellow shock

of dandelions is out of place

and already starting to mark time.




The Blackbird’s Nest


At first glance the bird doesn’t look alive

except for its eye, like obsidian,

the shining black speaking of purpose

and deep faith in its chosen spot.


It almost seems part of the nest,

so still and snug in the perfect cup

of twigs and grass that is lined with mud

and built to last several summers.


I probably wouldn’t have seen it

in its leafless gap in the hawthorn,

but it’s eye-level with my seat,

as I pull into the usual place.


It’s May, the gravel carpark bustling

with tourists gathered loudly around

the info board, only an arm’s reach away.

Don’t let them disturb you, blackbird!


As I pass to and from the office, where

I’m less and less sure I belong, I cast

a quiet eye on the nest: so obvious

once you know. It grounds my days


as if its success in hatching and fledging

hold a reminder of what really matters,

but I’m careful to keep my distance,

leave a space between its world and mine.



Mare and Foal


I nearly stumble upon them as I emerge

from the lane: in the clearing by the field gate.

The foal can’t be more than a day old.

It seems provisional, a sketch

for a later self, each twitch of its legs

loose as water, startled

by its own hoof-beats on hard earth.


The mother watches its every move,

licking the  ebony of its coat,

her muzzle pushing it back to standing,

firming its presence into something real

but her ears are radar-stiff,  alert

to my boots on the ground,

blocking the path with a snort of challenge.


The purpose of my walk is to give myself

briefly to the moor and I’ve no wish

to cause mother and foal distress

so I back away, some strange need

pushing out my empty palms.

Once I’m gone they’ll forget I was here

but I want them to know I mean no harm.



Grey Squirrel at Hawthornden Castle


It’s my solemn duty to shoot them.

The gardener’s laughter drops like a rock.

We are polite, as guests are, and later

his shotgun cracks through the storm-wrecked woods.


Others seem gentler. The ranger

at Glenridding lays cage traps by oak trees

but only so reds, or birds, can be released.

Any grey found trembling in the mesh at dawn


is humanely dispatched with a gun at close range.

They are hooligans, undesirables, taking over;

strip the bark off trees that haven’t found their feet,

carry a virus that’s lethal to the reds.


In Ireland, wardens brought pine martens back

to prowl like policeman, slinking through brush

and the canopies of trees, so the greys

that survive migrate to other woods.


The gun fires again and a squirrel

leaps onto the window ledge, in close-up:

haunches like springs, fingers clearly

defined as a child’s, eyes watery, staring


through the glass as if seeking shelter,

Go and hide or he’ll shoot you.

The cook rattles the window to shoo it away,

risking becoming an accessory.



The Eel


Glenn showed me how to cast, and the line

settled on the water like a hieroglyph

then sank, the float pointing straight as a finger.

We waited for the bite of chub or dace,

the slow current tugging my thoughts,

and when the float vanished, I flicked the rod

to secure the hook. Glenn guided me through

the give and take of reeling in, and I saw

the living knot of eel tie itself up


in a frenzied dance, colour darkening around it

from grey to black, long fin like an edging

of lace, eyes still despite its twisting body.

Glenn swore and grabbed it with an old rag,

trying to free its lip from the hook

while it thrashed and slipped through his fingers.

Back home I read about them: elongated miracles.

Born at sea they navigate upriver

for thousands of miles, climbing weirs and dams.

I sometimes desire the meditation of fishing 

and can almost tell myself I imagined the blood

as the eel was hurled back like a twist of rope.






Andrew Forster has published three full-length collections of poetry: Fear of Thunder, Territory (both published by Flambard) and Homecoming (Smith Doorstop). Fear of Thunder was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and Territory was shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year. A fourth collection Field Book is due to be published by Red Squirrel in October.


Photograph by Lindsey Holland.

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