Sunday, 31 January 2016




          A sleight of blue

          across a dark pool
          clouded with lilies,
          carp concealing,
          overhung by
          hazel and birch.

          Or where a quiet river
          curls through
          hoof-poached meadows
          to the slow death
          of an oxbow lake.

          Maybe captured
          in a house of marbles
          hung on a cord
          diving eternally
          at goldfish jigsaws?

          I would take you to see it;
          to watch where it flew.
          The azure would excite
          your heart, the orange warm
          the palette of your eye.

          But I dreamed this fabled halcyon
          over water I haven't known.
          Kingfisher's mostly live in dreams.
          I hope one night you see your own.


Monday, 25 January 2016

Dry January

This never ending
deluge, this downpouring from
the spongey heavens,

these flooded byways,
shaking-dog spattered hallways,
leaky wellingtons

every drop of it!
A man is waterboarded
to wet his whistle...


Monday, 21 December 2015

When Joe went out late

to shut away the poultry
after weeks of rain
he knew where the pony was
by the sound of its hooves
sucking in the mud.

Foxes still kill in downpours.
Maybe they keep closer
to the bones of the hedge
or loiter below hollies,
but they're always watching.
Hungry as December dark.

The hens were in and roosting,
dry enough in their houses.
He let the hatches drop
and turned towards the paddock.

Four days before Christmas
and he'd have preferred ice
to this unceasing rain.
The track would be flooded
down by the bridge,
the damp wall in the hall
coughing salt
out of flaking plaster.

He found the pony
and together the two squelched
back to the stable.

If there were still stars
he hadn't seen them
for many nights.
He'd laid off his shepherd
and couldn't think of
a wise man in those parts.

Should the Angel of the Lord
come down now
("Glad tidings! Glad tidings!")
he'd tell the twinkle to fuck right off.
And take the bloody weather with it.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Dusts

These dust motes, so gently pirouetting,
can, from certain angles in slanted light,
reform to embody the departed.

Libraries are full of such airborne ghosts
moving quietly between sleeping shelves,
attending to their liminal business.

Open a forgotten book, a fat tome
on Greek history say, and out they come,
liberated to scintillate in beams

sloping from tall windows; to dance in gusts
from the actions of automatic doors.
Closing the pages renders them homeless,

left to circle in whispering limbo
until one day like summoned saints, they sail
up, up, up, to peace on high picture rails.


Monday, 23 November 2015

Red Dog

When it rains round here
there are no yellow dogs.

Hematite stains Labradors.
Even Devon cows are red.

High green-haired sandstone bluffs
tumble in bloody surrender.

And along the undercliff
the gravelly sand is red.

Tourists carrying towels
look like accident victims.

Uncharitable souls might say
it looks like Hell at sunset.

Still, we make our choices.
I'd suggest a Red Setter.


That old story

It's true,
winged serpents may descend
and punish you for what you do.

And yes,
You've read the prohibition
documents. Any person who...

But strange
how softly this lawn yields
beneath your unshod feet.

How sweet
the hammock swings between
the honeyed apple trees.

First published as Editor's Pick at  22/11/2015

Monday, 9 November 2015

Snapshot and Citrine

In self-determined exile
in a cabin on a lake
way out somewhere-nowhere
on the forearm of the Cape.

Drinking slow tar coffee
reading Ferlinghetti's
City Lights anthology,
rain thumping on lilies.

I'd been hunting jewellery
for a pretty souvenir
to say I thought of you
while I was drowning here.

That night I wandered through
the Newcomb Hollow dunes
to see a chain of beach fires
below a supermoon.

Oranges and tangerines
blazing in the night.
I found you yellow citrine
on a thread of silver light.


Friday, 30 October 2015


There's an umbrella
furled and bound
by the cellar hatch
in The Horse and Hound. 
And I've seen more
in scruffy tubs
by dog hair doors
to village pubs. 
On Friday I saw two
in the Wild Goose
one black, one blue.
An umbrella bruise. 
Now I'm aware
I see them
Ownerless umbrellas
waiting for a storm.
Like sad old fellas
in saloon bars, forlorn.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


It's not always
the concrete
that's your
worst enemy
although kindness
isn't in its nature.
There are
fire escapes
window boxes
washing lines
all manner
of clutter
to encumber             Spi
the unhappy              ked
faller.                        rail

First published in The Broadsheet October 2015

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Seaside Conception

When he said goodbye
near the holiday flats
and the wind flipped away
her Kiss-me-Quick hat

and he laughed that "No!
It hadn't been 'crap'!"
- he couldn't tell then
that if he had snapped
her slim waist in two
his name was inked there
running all the way through.

Published 8/10/2015 on Clear Poetry

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

'A Fright Of Jays' review

Flattered by the following review in Canto Poetry magazine 21/9/15:!publications/cnec

Marc Woodward:  A Fright of Jays
Maquette Press, 2015
£4.00     16pp
This chapbook by Marc Woodward invites the reader into a dark rurality. These are beautifully crafted poems, interweaving ideas of freedom, constraint and expiation, in a depiction of the pastoral that, as a fellow Devon inhabitant, I found simultaneously very recognisable and strangely defamiliarised. Death is dealt in almost every poem, and a walk in the countryside is a dangerous undertaking – the landscape holds darknesses, and not just those of the night.
The first poem, ‘Eel Catching’, takes us into a double darkness where ‘midnight fog […] whispers from the river mouth/the fetid smell of marsh decay’ and obscures the moon and stars. All seems held in stasis – until the eels come. ‘Sliding through underwater grass, current tracers in the blind depth’, the eels are ominous, precursors of something inexplicit but threatening. When the speaker catches one, ‘thrashing fiercely in the torchlight/ as if in tongues before the priest’, we start to believe that some kind of mystical sacrifice is going to take place. But when he does ‘the act’ on his own ‘back door step’, that liminal place between wilderness and civilisation, there is ‘so much dark blood, like thick red oil’, that the killing has become an obscene contamination – the blood that will not wash off the murderer’s hands, and an industrial pollutant that poisons the earth.
These poems are rooted in very real places, and this enables them to bear their cargo of metaphor with ease. In ‘Beyond Broadwoodwidger’, the reader is asked to imagine being stranded in the rural night, a night which is both meticulously observed and metaphorically freighted: here is ‘a justice of darkness’, ‘the weight of condensation/on a vast ocean of bending blades’, where ‘there is nothing to save you’. Do you lie down and let ‘this wet ditch/ […] be your decomposing place?’
This question is answered, in a way, in the next poem, ‘Crisis’. Here the speaker does indeed lie down upon the ground, after yet another act of violence – this time against his mobile phone and all that it signifies. And signification is part of the problem; he sees too much. He says ‘If I could drive blindfold I could go/ …where all the signs are free of symbols’. But he can’t escape that way, so he has to go home and free these particular signs from their symbols by using lies.
One of the things so enjoyable about Woodward's collection is the way in which the poems interact with each other. ‘The Crossing’, in which the speaker steals a dog from a cramped backyard and releases it ‘ten miles from town’ inverts the capture of ‘Eel Catching’. In a later poem, ‘Revival’, the speaker revives a lizard he has found frozen ‘at the red mud edge of a Devon lane’, a place that echoes and refashions the eel-bloodied doorstep.
The idea of escape is a thread running throughout these poems. The stolen dog might or might not survive, but at least it has escaped (unlike the speaker in ‘Crisis’), and been given a freedom to be re-wilded and to ‘howl among the trees/ some ancient dog-breath song’. It is a vicarious escape for the poet, but also, perhaps, an atonement.
In the final poem ‘Sing of the Mountain’ we are, however, returned to imprisonment. The countryside is dark and irresistible, and, having travelled their hard journey, ‘the children of the mountain are tied,/ twisted in bindweed, creeper and ivy’. And, of course, ‘then there’s the wolf-owl night’.
This is a collection which concedes that you can’t escape your own landscape, external or internal, but that you can at least sing, even if only of ‘tangled isolation, / dog-in-the-thicket thoughts’. These are poems that sing in the dark, of darkness.

(Sally Douglas read English and European Literature at Warwick University. She lives in Devon. Poems and short stories have appeared in magazines such as Smiths Knoll, The Rialto, Envoi, Orbis and Interpreter’s House, and in anthologies. Her first poetry collection, Candling the Eggs, won the Cinnamon Press 2009 Poetry Award.)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Wanton Agnes

My glowing pink skin belies me
and I know that glint in your eye:
you're hoping we might go to bed?
Would you feel the same
if I was pea-pod green instead?

Before the bang and the ringing bells
that chimed us from cave into sunlight:
that's how I was - and my brother too.
Ah, yes, you know me now?
You've heard the gossiped news...

I'm Agnes, the green girl who lived:
I learned to forsake green beans
and to eat your garish food
then watch at the placid mill
as my skin took on your pig pink hue.

My homesick brother did the same
but his heart was always green.
Constant as malachite,
green as the willows
quivering by the wolf pits;

green as loyalty, green with memory,
green as the bright watermeal
that hides newts and frogs
but couldn't conceal
his bloated pink corpse.

So take me to bed, perhaps make me your wife,
I'll love you as any pink person might.
But  you must know that when I hear
the high bells of St Edmund's
tolling out bold and clear,

I'll want to take the cold hand
of my brother's colourless ghost
and walk where once a way appeared,
down by those lonely traps,
- that left us sun-struck and blinking, here.