Sam Henley Smith

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the poet

A Person Centred Therapist with a special interest in bibliotherapy, Sam Henley Smith found writing poetry helped her process the death of her parents from COVID-19. Sam’s had work published in a variety of journals, including Anthropocene, Green Ink Poetry and One Hand Clapping. She was longlisted in 2021 for the Plough Poetry Prize, and commended by Jacqueline Saphra in the Winchester Poetry Prize.

the poems

Requiem Delphinus Delphis

For Dad

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            I find you again, in the body washed in.


            You sailed out of this city single and sailed back betrothed,

            exchanged the brine in your bloodstream for love,

            found land legs and made family your amphibian home.


            Now, boat-teeth line the mouth of the muddy creek

            where the sea spat the creature out. Face up, fixed grin,

            unable to swim with or agin the tide.


            Time swallowed the whole whale of it

            and retching, the sea returns you to me

            in case I hadn't understood


            that you were gone.

I have come to the wall to pray

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                  to be with you.


                  The stone is peppered with scars,

                  an executioner’s wall –


                  rows of hearts

                  obliterated.


                  You wouldn’t approve,

                  I can hear you dismissing

                  such display of affection as

                  sentimental memorialisation.

                  Hand-painted in pretty pink

                  FUCK COVID on a heart

                  is not your style.


                  Yet in the insistent overwriting

                  of a name, scribed again

                  and again,


                  I see your pain –

                  determined to be

                  etched forever as if


                  you had held that husband’s hand

                  and together

                  had shouted your loves.

A familiar route

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            I’ve researched it on the internet,

            how to brace my back between wall and chair

            right leg slightly forward,

            knees pinioned fondly

            around your together-knees.


            It’s my turn to raise you now Dad.


            British Red Cross has lent us the commode

            but Covid-style, we are alone.

            I struggle, ease you to sitting,

            gently ease, gently please, then a pause

            for breath.


            Another breath.


            And if the Tamar Bridge could swing

            it would look just like your legs

            as its long carefully engineered limbs

            manoeuvre in parallel, perfectly paced,

            another journey across

            a Devon river bed.


            The crooks of my arms are hooks now, nestled in your pits.


            And lift.

            And pivot.

            And lower.

            Gently ease.

            Gently please.

            And breathe.


            And breathe.

Publishing credits

Requiem Delphinus Delphis: Green Ink Poetry

I have come to the wall to pray: exclusive first publication by iamb

A familiar route: So we go about our days: Winchester Poetry

  Prize Anthology 2021 (Winchester Poetry Prize)