Red Pencil – Jonathan Humble

Red Pencil

I am six years old, my pencil breaks
mid-word in Mrs Foster’s class.

So I turn to my friend Martin,
show him the pencil and whisper,

‘Martin, Martin, my pencil has broke.’
‘Use this,’ he says and passes a substitute,

secretly under our desk.
‘But it’s a red pencil, Martin,’ I say.

He smiles a smile. It is an ‘it’ll all be ok’
sort of smile and so I carry on,

copying lines of words I cannot read,
but which I try my very hardest

to replicate, as neat and true to the original
as I am able, at six, to do.

At the finish, I look down at my page
of writing; my teacher’s lines above,

with mine in red below and I wonder
about the words I have written.

I am happy with the result of my effort;
especially the esses which are

smooth and curvy and flowing and lovely.
They are the best I have ever done.

So, I walk twenty paces to Mrs Foster’s desk,
clutching my paper with pride,

and return ten yards with a slapped arse,
my work in shreds in a basket,

having a brand new perspective on the way of things
and on the reliability of my friend Martin.

 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. His poems have appeared in a number of anthologies and other publications such as Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework, Atrium, Riggwelter, Amaryllis, Eye Flash and Picaroon. His short stories and poems for children have been published in The Caterpillar and Stew Magazine.

Web: https://northernjim.wordpress.com

 

On Good Days – Jonathan Humble

On Good Days

On good days, the voices were quiet.
He’d fumble the razor, indulge in muttered
early morning profanities, yet still wear
his hope like an old boxer’s dressing gown.

Water cascading over knotted hands,
temperature rising as the boiler kicked in,
he’d tickle the soap trout like a novice,
splashing water over threadbare slippers.

Thin ribbons of steam wafting upwards,
enfolding the air, would draw him towards
the mirror like an opponent’s face drifting
into focus, as abused senses slowly sharpened.

And noticing rain, he’d open the window,
listen, breathe, let the irritations abate,
feel the control return, while in the glass,
his reflection slowly misted over.

He might wipe the condensation away, look
for memories, distort the image, try to summon
different eyes, willing someone else
to the mirror than the one expected.

But on bad days, on days where the reflection
remained obscured, through early morning mist,
the eyes would have no hope;
he would wait for the voices to return.

 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. He writes poetry and short stories. His stuff can be found in a number of different publications and on his poetry blogs ( https://jhpoetry.blogspot.co.uk and https://northernjim.wordpress.com ).

Return To Mardale – Jonathan Humble

Return To Mardale

Confused, she stands at water’s edge;
a shadow, lost by this unfamiliar lake.
She wonders why the bells are silent.
No church, no school, yet still she listens
for well loved songs and laughter.

An eagle soars, commands ancient heights,
the realms of Harter Fell below his wings.
Her thoughts rise too, catching thermals,
heart leaping over High Raise climbs.

Old Chapel Hill and Bridge return below,
with Dun Bull Inn; dark snug and warm hearth.
Stone cottages now evoked in thoughts
once buried in Westmorland’s fairest valley,
before the flood, before the tears.

Over rutted track, a farmer’s cart rattles,
decked in ribbon, known faces smiling back,
with the echo of a lover’s voice in the air,
as Whitsun bells peel to call the dead.

Confusion gone, she enters Haweswater.
Now content to fade, as under trees in full leaf,
she walks a submerged path in a drowned village.
And singing songs, she meets again with friends
who once had lived in Mardale Green.

 

Note: Where today you’d find Haweswater reservoir in the Lake District, there was once the village of Mardale Green. Back in the 1920s, an Act of Parliament was passed allowing Manchester Corporation to build the reservoir to supply water for the urban areas of the north-west of England. Buildings in the Mardale valley were demolished, families were relocated and by 1935 the new reservoir was established. Occasionally, in periods of drought, the old dry stone walls and bridge make a ghostly reappearance, only to be submerged once water levels rise again. 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. He writes poetry and short stories. His stuff can be found in a number of different publications and on his poetry blogs ( https://jhpoetry.blogspot.co.uk and https://northernjim.wordpress.com ).

Old Dog – Jonathan Humble

Old Dog

Heart racing as if a mile had been lost,
at odds with the stillness of a newly

emptied room, taking in the failure
of pencils on the floor and books left

on tables. He sees ghosts, hears the
echo of children’s voices, careless and

free now it has gone three, oblivious
of the anguish stalking this classroom;

a place conflicted all day, growing
through the week with doors groaning

at opened windows, reluctant papers
shying away from pens equally

ambivalent about their marking duties.
And why would it be like this, this day

he’d planned for, attended seminars
about, circled in red in his diary;

this last day of all terms?

 

Jonathan Humble is a teacher in Cumbria. His poetry has appeared in The Big Issue, Ink Sweat & Tears and Obsessed With Pipework Magazine. His short stories for children have been published in The Caterpillar and The Stew Magazine.