Zoe Brooks

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the poet

Zoe Brooks returned to her native Gloucestershire to write and grow vegetables after 15 years in London. Her collection Owl Unbound appeared in 2020, and her long poem for voices, Fool’s Paradise, won the Electronic Publishing Industry award for Best Poetry eBook – it will be published as a physical book in 2022. Zoe is a member of the management team for the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, and as well as setting up and running the Poetry Events in UK & Ireland Facebook group, enjoys performing poetry.

the poems

My Grandfather and Uncle

00:00 / 01:04

                        My grandfather and uncle

                        both returned to the earth

                        with untimely haste.

                        Although they worked it,

                        broke its back

                        for frost to bite into,

                        dragged sedge from ditches,

                        clawed back

                        lambs from snowheaps,

                        they did not inherit it.

                        Unless it was

                        in the length and width

                        of a man's form.

                        And it claimed them

                        early,

                        reaching up through the chest,

                        pain filling the arms,

                        which had gathered harvests.

                        And still they loved it.

                        And still they cursed

                        on cold wet mornings

                        as it worked

                        like ringworm into their hands.

                        In death

                        they shall inherit the earth.

                        Until this time

                        they have been living

                        on borrowed land.

The Call

00:00 / 01:46

                        You want me to stay a hearthkeeper,

                                    a filler of stoves

                                    and a bearer of logs.

                        But the forest calls

                                    and all the small unspoken things

                                    living there listen.

                        You want me to be a guard dog,

                                    a lier by the fire.

                        You place dead meat in bowls

                                    to comfort me.

                        But the forest is stirring.


                        Can't you feel its mossy paws

                                    rising up the walls?

                        Can't you hear it?

                        It scuttles in the attic

                                    and leaps on nesting mice,

                                    tears their little limbs

                                    and chomps on innards.

                        You try to keep out its cold,

                                    but the roof insulation is red

                                    with the death of vermin.


                        As you pull the rug over your head,

                                    I feel my tail grow bushy,

                                    my snout lengthen,

                                    my teeth turn iron.


                        In the morning you will find

                                    my bed empty.

                        Open the door and follow my trail,

                                    if you dare.

                        Follow it up the hill,

                                    where the track skirts

                                    the ruined farm

                                    with windows black

                                    as the mouth of a gap-toothed hag.

                        Follow it past the heavy cows

                                    to where the snow will not melt

                                    in the shadow of the birch trees,

                                    to the edge of the forest.


                        I am waiting for you there.

The Gypsies in the Room

00:00 / 00:43

                        It is the unstitching

                        of the mind,

                        we tell ourselves, watching

                        as she slips further from us,

                        like an old purse,

                        the lining opening

                        to reveal lost coins.

                        Morphine and dementia

                        see the gypsies in the room,

                        silent in a row.

                        The ancestors come to greet her,

                        we joke,

                        to watch over the journey

                        we cannot take with her,

                        not yet anyway.

                        The coins jingle,

                        crossing the palm

                        of the ferryman.

Publishing credits

My Grandfather and Uncle / The Gypsies in the Room:

  Owl Unbound (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

The Call: Obsessed With Pipework (No. 85)