For my father

In the year I turn sixty
I think of love beads
hung mile long on market stalls
amid joss sticks, incense, amber soap tablets
cabbages, carrots & apples.
The list is endless
At the end there you are just ahead
of me. Wrapped against bad weather
Unsteady. Gone is the quick march.
And we are both bent forward
against falling snow. Eyes fixed like glass.

In the year I turn sixty
your world is still here but smaller.
And I in the city bought figs & oat bread
from a lone brave trader whose many children
is why he is out here. Winter wrapped.

And for a while I rest. Eyes downcast
at blue faced pigeons or as you called them
Rock Doves. And while I feed one hopped 
into my palm I am the old man
with his daughter who imprints time's atom
Split between the old & the flown.


Mourning Diary

Day One.

Had I known. I would have gone to the reading
not wasted two second chances.
excuse my melanistic appearance.
Hindsight is a cruel beast.

Day Two.

Again winter sun spangled on sea fails to reach
my eyes. Out there a woman is drowning.
I try to connect with through an electric meter
Her salt cracks my lips.

Day Three.

Dusk comes in a colour I cannot name.
Not far from a grey city where I was born
There's a man
on the touchline who could have been my son.
He says the boys chasing a ball are like my words on a page.

And this is my quiet voice.
Oh Yes.

Day Four.

The flight to Zaragoza is swift
& this new winter covers Aston in frost
on mountains I have not seen before.
Dear Laura. I need new boots. (Hint)

Day Five.

This island is as we left it
forty years ago. Flowers were real then.
These smell of decay. 
Their eternal presence blurs as you leave & I begin
another road trip. Jagger plays guitar.

Day Six.

My words scroll in a bus stop
& neon bulbs are too bright.
Even now you are beautiful
mi Otra Mida una naranja.
My bus ride home.

Day Seven.

At shores edge. Paper craft floating.
Each one holds a stick man, wife, child, a whole nation.
They call.
Come on in. Water is warm
Allah will guide you.

Day Eight.

There I am again. Playing guitar.
My head a bird's nest. And these  fat fingers 
fail chords.
You laugh. 
Candy Man. Not so cruel.

Day Nine.

Known as a number for change.
Syllables fragment.
Peach I'm ment. & maybe this
Ugly Duckling. This abomination
will learn love is fickle.

Day Ten.

Christmas lights are my runway
to a cortejo. And even that notion
of home is not
as clear as it was before.
Will someone tell me why.

Day Eleven.

Someone tell me why our pillows
glisten like frozen salt lakes.
I do/did not 
believe in afterlife. But this river holds me down
In their love. Earth bound. 

Day Twelve.

Here again. At this small church
I find her. This woman with
a holly wreath.
Your crown she says
It's all I have.

Day Thirteen.
Sunrise & sundown are seamless
now. And time echoes in my throat.
is a second hand's sweep across a watch face.
I am flint on blade.

Day Fourteen.
And finally Death is not a noun.
I fill pockets: Lock of baby hair. Blade of grass
to summon a chorus of feathers.
A Peso for a boatman.
And in these last hours

I plant an orange seed.
For you both.
It's who I am.

In Remembrance of Reuben Woolley. 1952-2019

Poet & Editor of I Am Not A Silent Poet.

mi Otra Mida una naranja is Spanish for my other half of an Orange. 
In many religions Orange is considered the colour of God.

The World’s Sad Aria Blows Through Her Hair.

For Leanne Bridgwater:
Forever, my dream of love has vanished. E lucevan le stelle: Tosca.

I see her death. My world stops. Suitcase lies agape
like a mouth which can not comprehend at the line’s end
there are only buffers. No more tracks to spur her onwards.
I hear her voice      each syllable      pinned
as if it were a note on a music score

She speaks of vision’s of love & pieces of heart everywhere
Her semi-quaver      time value      one sixteenth of a note.
Somehow she has managed to write her own epitaph
yearning      young love flown from her arms
And I leave The Gaunts

Butterfly weeps in my ear.

©Natalia Spencer 2019


This body grows old not that it matters much

Each day the I in silence is a tin horn

And still there is much to done

Her lost in transition

arms turned brown a fork handle

Thick thighs an elbow’s resting plane

Tasked with replanting old with new

These fingers plunge into earth & find worms

Small pink like blind newborn moles

always destined to rise after rain

It matters not dirt gets under white nail tips

form a perfect split from pink moons

The hands delve deep to poppy roots

& find the dead of the eighties disease

Back then they died much as we do now

Sterile bed, nappies, the heart giving up

And for a moment the I in silence

falls as crumbled earth onto dungarees.

Do not talk about blood loss her private

pain of never being whole.

Sexless she adds budding geraniums

to her new wooden box

And here squat among world chaos

the echo of Nazi boots

her body has earned her place

She makes love blooms


©Natalia Spencer 2020

Joy & the Division Bell.

 Authors note. In a time when the world stage seems so divided, humans are not sheep. Sheep are peaceful. We are not. 

This month, has been the first time I travelled on buses. I chose to do so because cases where I live have been low throughout lockdown & easing restrictions. 

I have a long affinity with buses. It stems from a time when Mum shoveled three children aboard & the conductor folded the push chair & placed it in the luggage rack. 

Today, the journey to the city centre, is different. I feel like a snail, emergent from its shell, using tentacles to guide me.

In one brand store I buy two tee-shirts, on sale, & pyjamas. This also feels like a novel experience. Maybe it is due to charity shops not opening on a regular basis. More likely, my purchase is driven by need to be an invisible person on the street. 

It feels marvellous. So marvellous I am confident enough to have a conversation with strangers. And then I encounter Jonathan, a tall, young, athletic, dreadlocked street peddler.  Or Terravon as he pitches himself. 

He offers a CD.  I decline.

‘It’s free.’ He says. 

‘Sorry, I don’t have a player.’ I say & step into his space to shake his hand but divert to an elbow bump. 

‘Free yourself from fear’ He said & raised his hand for a high five. 

Our hand slaps seemed amplified. An elderly couple stare at us. 

‘Jonathan. I do not live in fear. I am also comfortable with Public Health directives.’ I say raising my assassin style mask. 

‘Come on,’ he says ‘call it what it is. Tyranny. It’s Tyranny, isn’t it?’

I begin to speak. He overruns me.

‘Sorry, I do not think it is.’ I say & walk away.

Jonathan shouts after me ‘You just can’t handle the truth.’

And I felt sad. So sad, that when I exited the Chemist I go back to him & say, ‘Jonathan, when the existing government are so corrupt that cronyism is rampant, that’s  when the mark is overstepped. 

He smiles  & says ‘Exactly’  

I walk towards the bus stop with an eerie echo of a friend beside me. Harvey Nicholls still has its yellow ‘Closed due to Covid 19’ banners in its windows. My friend reminds me of a Trinidadian, Joanna Lumley.

I picture her & myself enacting a rift from Absolutely Fabulous by the perfume counters.  She would probably cuss me for even suggesting it. But then I have a perverse sense of humour. Sorry. Not sorry. 

The route home is usually straightforward. Not wishing to wait an extra five minutes for a direct bus, I board one which would take me as far as the train station. The black driver seems surly, almost agitated when I speak to him.  

‘Sorry, are you angry at me for asking a question?’

‘You’re supposed to get on further down.’ 

I offer to dismount & let him drive the bus to the stop. He shakes his head & I haul my heavy backside up to the second deck.  Yes, I am plump now & slowly fading to grey in this wonderful, but slightly bizarre life. 

Perched among passing autumnal trees, I question if my mask hindered communication with the driver. Is this why people who need visual cues feel conflicted about masks wearers? 

The bus stops near the defunct Holy Cross church which appears to have a leaning tower. In reality it does not lean. It’s just perspective when viewed from afar.

Then a voice says ‘Nah mate. You ain’t giving me no change ticket.’ 

‘Sorry. I don’t have change. You can take a change ticket. Or wait for the next bus.’ Said the driver. 

‘Nah. I not getting off. You ain’t giving me no change ticket.’ 

The interior lights of the bus go off & I haul my bulk down stairs. 

‘I have change, if you need it.’

The young man has a just showered sheen & wants to go to Stockwood, to visit his daughter. 

I am wearing my floral assassin style mask. He is clean shaven & the bottom deck is full of senior people. Very few are wearing masks.  Also fine. 

‘Nah. I don’t want your help.  Keep outta this.’

I return to my seat. The man continues to harangue the driver. 

Nothing new here, I think & lumber back down stairs. 

A passenger checks his watch. sighs.

‘Excuse me. Why won’t you let me help you?  You need to go Stockwood, to see your daughter. I have spinal problems & need to go home.’

‘Look! I don’t like your aggressive tone. I am recording this. I always record when I do business.’ 

I look at khaki crop trousers, hugging his femurs. The pockets are flat.

‘That’s fine.’ I say. ‘I am not being aggressive. This is why I said excuse me.’ 

One last time. I ask if I can help. He declines. 

‘Fine. Get off the bus.’ I say & return to my seat. 

What happens next is unclear. The engine starts. There are few more stops before the train station & my connection.  As I dismount I thank the driver. 

When the next bus arrives Shower Sheen Man is sat in a disabled seat, his back towards me. 

‘Is okay luv. You can ‘ave this seat.’ He says

‘No, thanks. I may be disabled. But, I do not need your help.’

I use both hand rails to climb to the top deck.  His little lamb voice says.  ‘Oh you were on the other bus. Ain’t it weird?

Just before the penultimate stop I realise he is travelling in the wrong direction. Wherever he gets off would entail a long walk uphill to catch the correct bus. 

 Quiet, I wait for my destination to appear at the bottom of a steep hill.

I step down from the running board.  An old man is talking to the driver about someone being ‘a dick’. It is the man who looked at his watch & sighed. 

And our driver’s smile is like a new moon in a dark sky.

I breath leaf scented air.  Happy.