Jan Harris

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the poet

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.

the poems

Summerlands

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                       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
                       great-grandmother wove
                       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
left unfinished

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                        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

                        shimmering through.


                        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.

Urban sheepdog

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                  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.

Publishing credits

Summerlands: Ink Sweat & Tears

The glove her mother left unfinished: Acumen (Issue 101)

Urban sheepdog: winner of The Writer Highway

  Dog Poetry Competition 2020