Jan Harris lives in Nottinghamshire, and was awarded a place on Writing East Midlands’ mentoring scheme in 2018. Her first collection, Mute Swans on the Cam, was published in 2020. Jan has had poems in various print and online journals, including Acumen, Atrium and Poetry Wales, as well as in many poetry anthologies. In 2019, Jan scooped third place in the Wales Poetry Award.
Willow man farms
the summerlands, tends
black maul in its bed of clay.
At leaf fall he harvests
young stems by machine.
His father’s billhook rusts away.
At home his wife dusts the crib
from withies, stripped white
as tight sinews, proud
on her hand when she twined
the pliant wands to shape.
Their willow lines Old Yeo’s banks
where whimbrel-song springs
and water voles burrow
deep in osier-cradled earth.
And there they sleep,
close to the river’s lap and lull.
The glove her mother
It would mean so much to me,
my friend says,
if you could finish it.
She hands me the needles:
two neat rows of knitting
in soft black yarn,
a single strand of silver
The finished one hugs her wrist,
fits each finger with comfort.
The pattern is fragile with age,
held together with yellowed tape,
adjusted many times
to fit her growing hand,
the workings written in pencil
on the back.
I follow it with care,
fall into the rhythm of her mother’s making.
To finish the glove takes little
from the skein,
enough left over
for a hat and scarf to keep a daughter warm
on the coldest winter day.
He’s your uber-cool streetwise sidekick, hyper-
connected through the wavelength of his lead,
but unleash him and he flows like a brook
through the park, gathers you in the oxbows
of his meanders. No city nine-to-five for him –
he keeps a farmer’s time. Wet nose in your face
at dawn and instant-coffee eyes that perk you up
for work – no time to play. The sticks you throw
are sheep to stalk in stealth mode, belly low
to dew-damp grass, his gaze unflinching
before the fetch! He’s partial to the urban life.
A taste of pilau rice from late-night takeaways
goes down a doggy treat. He works out weekly
at the canine gym, and though he’ll sleep on a rug,
he always prefers to snore amid the snowdrift
of your crisp and clean Egyptian cotton sheets.
But see, his muzzle’s flecked with moorland brown.
He dreams, and his paws shake like a new-born lamb.
Summerlands: Ink Sweat & Tears
The glove her mother left unfinished: Acumen (Issue 101)
Urban sheepdog: winner of The Writer Highway
Dog Poetry Competition 2020