poetry box

Heaving with the Dreams of Strangers a Dreich ‘Slims’ Chapbook winner, 2022. Further details to follow…

Thetis a narrative poem retelling the Trojan War through the eyes of Thetis, mother of Achilles, to be published by Esplanade Pres, Autumn 2022. Further details to follow…

Interview with Paul Brookes from Wombwell Rainbow, June 2022 https://thewombwellrainbow.com/2022/06/16/wombwell-rainbow-interviews-sue-watling/ 

Published Poems

Beyond the village in Dreich, Season 4, No. 4, March 2022
You in Dreich, Season 4, No. 4, March 2022
Finding myself in a book in Dreich, Season 4, No. 4, March 2022
Language of the poppy in Dreich, Season 4, No. 4, March 2022
Anne Bonny and Mary Read, 18th-century pirates in The Poetry Shed, November 2021
God isn’t listening to me 
in Sarasvaki 62, August 202
Lady Willendorf in Sarasvaki 62, August 2021
What’s a girl to do? in Sarasvaki, Summer 2021
Polly Swallow, fisher-girl from Whitby in Sarasvaki 62, August 2021
Wife of Fenrir in Dawntreader, June 2021
Loss of love for a seahorse
in Dream Catcher, issue 43, July 2021
Sea Witch
in Seaborne, May 2021
Boudicca in Dawntreader 54, April 2021
Kalypso has questions in The Ekphrastic Review, March 2021
When death is not enough in The Ekphrastic Review, March 2021
Terentius Neo the baker in Amethyst Review, February 2021
Burial Mounds in the Landscape
in There is no plant B, Stafford Green Arts Anthology, February 2021
Geneology of blood in Amethyst Review, January 2021
Fox on the Allotment, in Green Ink Poetry, January 2021
Walking with Ghosts in the Abergavenny Small Press (ASP) Literary Journal, January 2021
Winter Haiku in Spelt Magazine, December 2020.
Emergence in Visual Verse, September 2020
Accidental Loss
in The High Wolds Poetry Anthology, October 2020
A walk on the beach becomes a poem in the Tide Rises, The Tide Falls, October 2020
One of these days it’ll ‘appen in The Adriatic, September 2020

Dreich, Season 4, No. 4, March 2022 

Beyond the village

October is the Gothic month,
breath of frosted hoar
and mildewed roses,
squash cords rot on frozen earth,
while pumpkins glow,
and fairy wings glisten.

This is the shadow season,
look, by the trees,
in plumbed shades,
tiny hands are dribbling
ewe’s milk, spotting icy grass
to breed more snowdrops.

Fairy feet dancing winding paths,
unravelling flat labyrinths,
if time were a colour,
it would ripple the push
of hollow gourds,
thin as empty eggshell.

Finding yourself in a book

Look, there I am,
in the thicket of letters,
peeping through serifs,
resting on spines,
pushing the kern
further apart.

Watch me hurdle over an H,
swing from the bar of T,
worm through the O’s,
slip-slide each side of W.

Sometimes I tilt the margins,
or dance between lines,
where you’ll find me waving,
waving, squeezing out sounds,
before they take flight
like untethered dreams.

Language of the poppy

She brews tea
with crushed seeds,
tilts the delicate spout,

pours into a china cup,
porcelain so fine,
the light shines through,

milky latex sap,
white as snowdrops,
rises like spring tides,

forest of petals,
ruffled skin,
black heart,

the promise of prayer,
sleep, dream,
feel the wings of angels.


I wake to silence
so loud it roars
across my empty nest,
stamped with the shape of eggs,
once swaddled in feathers.

Lines across my upper lip
were not there before,
they shout to the world
I have less days left
than those spent living.

The curl of my nest lacks corners,
nowhere to hide from the dark,
no windows, doors,
ceiling of stars,
all mine, a singularity.

My mother’s face watches,
I swallow words
like restless ghosts,
threading hope through
the cup of my nest.

time after time
I filled cracks with gold,
the burning stuff flows,
but with nowhere to go,
what is there left to hold on to?

The Poetry Shed, 15th November 2021 

Anne Bonny and Mary Read,
18th-century pirates

We will birth girls,
astride the waves,
in the swing of a hull,
to the keen of gull,
and rattle of black fingered reef.

I’ll teach them to bind their breasts,
while you sew pouches for blood,
they’ll straddle rigging,
tilt with the tide,
while all through the night,

boat beds rock them with salt star
dreams of tarnished moons and flying fish.
When we dock in a harbour,
houses will scare them
for how can the world be made of stone,

when breathing is motion,
life is curves,
and living means
finding your feet
on uncertain ground.

Sarasvaki 62, August 2021 

God isn’t listening to me

I lit candles in churches,
all over Europe for you,

thin tapers of wax, leaning
drunk, in trays of sand.

I whispered prayers,
called invocations,

crossed my arms in gestures
only you would know.

I don’t think god was listening.
Maybe the wing of crow in my pocket,

or moon on my brow, marked me
out as a different angel, not his type at all,

or maybe fire wasn’t enough,
I should have considered blood,

earth, air, water, to offer
the balance love needs.

Only god has the answer,
and he isn’t listening to me.

Lady Willendorf

Squat on my palm like a bulb, I want to plant her,
watch her grow, ask her name, who plaits her hair,

who carved the swell of belly, dragged her breasts,
cut the cleft, marked her sex for giggling boys.

She sucks our gaze without apology. Submits her fearless hips.
Struts gutsy thighs to eyes which ache for hollow bones.

Today she is a joke. Skinny dieticians, behind her gorgeous back,
use her photo as a threat for heavy girls. They miss the point.

This lady’s begging to be touched, her pitted skin invites us in,
to speak a language we don’t know, or have forgotten.

What’s a girl to do?

The first time I touched his hair, I knew he was blessed,
smell of wax, sweet with power, shoulders beneath, broad,
brown, ribs hard, the strength of him calling me, fierce, hot,
I could have loved this man, as it was, I kohled my eyes,
sweetened my thighs, took the silver. He came like a blind
cub, words of love dripping, I stole them all, turning them
over, this way and that, as slick with sweat, he slept, trusting
my hands in his hair.  Horah was there, light on the shears
glinting, I lifted the strands, cut, cut, it fell to the floor, heat
from his skull rising, Samson, I called, the enemy are here!
So many times, he’d split the bindings, was sure he’d rise,
but he lay like a child, as in they rushed, stakes in his eyes,
screaming, screaming, I looked away, job well done, he will
see dark, feel the drag of stone, while I remember the first time
l saw him, hair to die for, times are hard, what’s a girl to do?

Polly Swallow, Fisher-girl from Whitby

The camera peers
through cotton layers,
gutting the girl,

glass plates,
spritzed with salt,
like rousing the herring,

clutching nets,
she fixes his gaze,

knowing eyes,
wise smile,
who is Polly Swallow?

Back-alley rat,
hungry for scraps,
and a six-penny piece,

or harbour cat,
seeking sun-warmed stone
to stretch out on.

Wife of Fenrir in Dawntreader, June 2021

Wife of Fenrir

Howl, my love,
think of your father,
fight back.

Did Tyr’s hand taste good,
dripping warriors’ blood,
salted with iron,
just how you like it.

With dwarven enchantment,
they hold you down,
magicked fetters,
jaws staked,
taking your blades
to shatter teeth like a broken trap,
I hope they all drown in the river
you made with your spit!

We’re coming, Fenrir,
to break the bonds,
stay strong my love,

Loss of Love for a Seahorse in Dream Catcher, issue 43, July 2021

The loss of love for a seahorse

You were the start of a melody, but after
a while I tired of how your bones creased
my skin, the tang of fish on sheets, I missed
being kissed properly with tongues, your
circling made me dizzy as did all the colours.
I tried to leave, but you fought back, curled
in a permanent question, played songs in minor
keys, blowing chords through hollow bones,
offered to stretch your body so I wouldn’t
have to. Good of you true, but not enough,
when the taste of salt is a mystery and we fail
to agree on the language of prayer before sleep.

Sea Witch in Seaborne, May 2021

Sea Witch

She squats on rock,
tying knots,
one for a breeze
two for a squall
three for a storm…
she’s here,
in the stink of cave,
slime wracked weed,
hiding in cracks,
reaching out
through smacks of stinging rain,
she’s here,
crunching fish,
scrying in dishes of rock pools,
stringing shells for children
calling them in… in…in…
salted hair,
stiff as the bones of feathers,
watching you come,
picking your way across boulders

Boudicca in Dawntreader 54, April 2021


Back through the centuries,
layers of mud,
of rubble, concrete,
below platform nine
you may find
the bones of a woman
called Boudicca,
while beyond the fields
of Watling Street,
on clear, bright mornings,
you might glimpse
an amber-eyed hare,
tawny fur, body taut,
ears alert for the skirts
of its warrior queen.

Kalypso questions Odysseus after Odysseus And Calypso by Frank Buchser, 1872, in The Ekphrastic Review, 22nd March 2021

Kalypso questions Odysseus

Tell me, Odysseus, what will you do on your island? Mend nets? Stitch sails? Tell the wives of your men how you fucked your way home while their children were hungry?  What will you do, when the bones of Ithaka whisper my name? Know this, lord king, the tongue of my tide will reach you. You’ll have to stop swimming to silence it, stuff up its throat so the waves can’t speak, or breathe my name in your lungs.

Tell me, Odysseus, what will you think in your olive bed, its roots through the floor and arms out-stretched like vines? What will you say when she comes to you, with her broken nails and thin crone breasts? Will there be enough left?  Or will you make space for me? An itty bit of space, for me to slip in with a click of my braids, and the breath of my dress, falling, falling, fallen, down to the floor.

Odysseus and Calypso (1872) by Frank Buchser (Swiss, 1828–1890)

When death is not enough after The death of Hector by Peter Paul Rubens (Belgium) circa 1630-1635 in The Ekphrastic Review, 22nd March 2021 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Achilles_slays_Hector.jpg 

When death is not enough 

Raving, raging, mad man, killer on the loose. How will it all end? Look. One by one the Trojans are falling. By gods, he’s missed the roar of war. Nothing beats the heat of twisting, turning knives in battle, spreading Trojan dead across the plain, all joy in life stubbed out between his hands, beneath his feet and so it was with Hector. The golden scales of Zeus have set his fate. The Trojan prince is wearing his mistake, for no one knows an armour like its owner, and Achilles sees a space to aim, deep within the neck, where Hector’s flesh opens in a smile. He hits the dust, ash borne spear jutting from his throat, vibrating like a harp string, to and fro, ever   s l o w e r    s   l   o   w    e     r   ‘till it stops. The prince is dead.

Red, red, helmet red. Breastplate spattered. Arms. Legs. Badged with Hector’s blood, death is not enough. Achilles cannot stop.  Rage unfettered, grief unbound, he strips the body, stabs its heels,  threading thongs through jagged weals, ties them to his chariot and he’s off, bouncing bloodied Hector in the sandy ruts behind. Once, twice, thrice around the walls of Troy where queen and daughters weep, and the king takes to his bed.

At night, Apollo slips inside the palisade, where Hector lies alone, a mesh of flesh and bone, heaped into a corner. Breathing godly love, he heals the body, revealing all its beauty, wipes it clean. At dawn Achilles rages at the pale white skin. Driving in his sword, he carves the name Α χ ι λ λ ε υ ς across Prince Hector’s chest. As if the Trojans could forget! Then harnessing his horses, he is off. Three, four, five times and more, dragging Hector’s body round the city walls. Say it again. How will it end?

Achilles slays Hector (1630-35) by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) 

Terentius Neo the Baker in Amethyst Review February 2021

Terentius Neo the Baker

In the hour before dawn,
he’s kneading dough,
the colour of skin,

slapping flat the thick balloon,
before setting it down,
to rise like a breath,

the room smells of history,
desert heat,
and here they come:

Eve, tired of squabbling sons,
Sarah, welcoming Abraham home,
Naomi, planning a road trip back to Bethlehem,

Terentius Neo has no idea
of the shadows he serves,
or how his bread will survive,

carbonised medallion,
branded with knuckle prints,
pulled from the guts of Vesuvius.

Fox on the Allotment in Green Ink Poetry, January 2021

Fox on the Allotment

…and there it was
late afternoon
skinny, pale,
slinking down the path
with guilty grace,

the collision of our worlds
took my breath away,
the day you messaged me,
triple, breast, negative, 
the cancer had returned,

if I could, I’d be a hound,
primed to track malignant cells,
rip their guts out,
savage them,

instead I left food,
to feed the hungry fox,
while an intravenous line
dripped poison in your veins.

Walking with Ghosts in the Abergavenny Small Press (ASP) Literary Journal, January 2021





Walking with Ghosts 


               across the escarpment,
below winter skies,
the wind a wall
to fight through,

 wild without                          wild within,

               he returns in dreams,
brings feathers, rings,
look,               here,
soot pestled with ashes,
scars, spiralled to serpents,
winding across his skin,

               I was there, cutting with flint,
wherever he goes,
he takes the mark of my fingers,

wild                                   wild


               tilt of wind-bent trees,
rippled tarn,
all remind me again,
how it feels
to walk with ghosts.

Geneology of Blood in Amethyst Review, January 2021 

Geneology of Blood

Clear skinned virgin,
cusp of change,

mother, counting the days,
no, yes, no, please,

and here I am, cheeks creased
like the back of your shirt,

we are charms on a bracelet of age,
all red, red, say it again,

red for danger, red for stop,
wild women, poisoned fruit,

colour me red so I can be seen,
talk to me about blood.

Advent Calendar Haiku in Spelt Magazine, December 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjmYgUIWKsA&ab_channel=SpeltMagazine 

Winter Haiku

crossing the river
into a different country
cut through by train tracks

Emergence in Visual Verse, September 2020 https://visualverse.org/writers/sue-watling/


Watch me emerge from the parts of my whole,
see me reach for the stars in a sun-centred galaxy,
spiral through lightless space, come closer,

let me show you inside, see, stones from the hem
of land fringing the sea, here you’ll find me, sifting
shingle for agate, pitted carnelian, pale Baltic amber,

cracking nodules for fossils, seeking out ammonite
whirls and twirls like labyrinths, look, insects, from my
plot by the train tracks, centipede, fly, a humbug bee,

borrowed from one of my colonies, come closer, put
your nose to the glass and breath, honey and wax,
all heaven exists in a hive, did you know that? So

what of the face, you ask, come closer, see, it’s a mask,
everyone wears one, I am the sum of my parts like a
poem, here is fire, air, stone for earth but wait –
where’s water?
I need to add rivers or pockets of ocean…

Accidental Loss in The High Wolds Poetry Anthology, October 2020

Accidental Loss

I lost an earring, picking damsons,
a silver Celtic twist, inset with jet,
high on the Wolds, it fell unnoticed
on a nettled strip of land between
hedgerow and ploughed field.

Distracted, waging war with thorns,
pointed barbs tearing skin, reaching high
for ash bloomed plums, my earring fell
in silent payment, as if blood were not enough
for robbing autumn fruit.

If you walk this way in years to come,
where leaves tinged with rusted gold,
as fields unfold the timeless view,
and church spires silhouette
against a metal glint of sea,

you might catch a flash of silver
on the uncut, nettled path,
and wonder where it came from,
like the accidental loss of flint axe,
narrow arrow tip, or folded disc of gold.

A walk on the beach becomes a poem in The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls Literary Journal, October 2020 https://www.thetiderises.org/read/a-walk-on-the-beach-becomes-a-poem

A walk on the beach becomes a poem

Tides are line breaks,
ebb flow,
offering in-between spaces.

Waves are rhythms,
fast slow
adding fishy arpeggios.

Whirls of ammonite,
fingers of squid,
fossils for longevity.

Scraps of amber,
faded carnelian,
sifting shingle for imagery.

I taste salt on your tongue,
or maybe tears.
It ends with a stanza of ocean.

One of these days it’ll ‘appen in The Adriatic, September 2020, https://issuu.com/theadriatic/docs/the_adriatic_issue_1_final_final



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