Once Was Every Woman a Witch by Karen Barton

‘I regret the omission of women poets from this book.
This is simply due to the fact that Britain in the last
fifteen years has not produced a woman poet of real stature.’
Geoffrey Summerfield


This house has been far out at sea, driving
an old basking shark, fixed with brigantine
tacking; faced into the current to boundaries
the sea’s edge,                              the lands long

rim. I come in peace to praise the dead
with a mouth full of stars under a moon
like the rind of Newton’s apple. Walking

in the scythed churchyard, around the locked
church, I saw a shot-down angel, saw her relic
in stones. While in their talking graves,
at midnight, girls wake, yawn and pad up to
the door digging a small porch of imitation, push

through rings like heaven. One by one they appear
at the visiting hour, every woman a witch,
and line up naked with sailors. It’s Hallowe’en.
The turnip-man’s lopped head stiffens and grows

skin. The Green Man in his chair recovering breathed in
air, breathed out light, a lamp glow for a gnats dance
to the Marie Lloyd song, among deaths castaways. Here
are spaces
between time and motion; an incident
on a journey to the edge,               as fog chaos grips;
a mist of neurosis in a crosshatch of streets.

Through undersea growth a frustrated virtuoso spills
a final message into bottles filled with madness
and the sea cries with its meaningless voice. Music comes
and goes on the wind, an augury of morning,
with too many colours. Nearing the end, hills sank

like green fleets at the jawbone of the sea’s edge.
I look across the early purges of Sunday Morning, sail
into the tipped cup of the moon, my lines, an epitaph
for the Death of a poet, an unsettled vision in the locked
sky, where a dove cries the song of the dead.


Source: Worlds, seven modern poets. Penguin.
Ed. Geoffrey Summerfield
(using the index of first lines)


Karen (Downs-) Barton is a neurodiverse poet studying The History of Art with Creative Writing BA at the Open University, Milton Keynes. She lives in Wiltshire, UK, close to Stonehenge and her non-poetic occupations have included being a magician’s assistant, dancer and tango teacher. She is founder and co-editor of Matryoshka Poetry and has been published in Alyss, The Goose, The Curly Mind, Three Drops From A Cauldron, I Am Not A Silent Poet, Poetry WTF, Thank You For Swallowing and is forthcoming at Unlost and The Fem Lit’. Her work can be found at: https://thepapercutpoet.blogspot.co.uk

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