Stewart Carswell

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Stewart Carswell

the poet

Stewart Carswell grew up in the Forest of Dean and currently lives in Cambridgeshire, where he co-pilots the Fen Speak open mic night. He studied Physics at Southampton University, and has a PhD from the University of Bristol. His poems have recently been published in Under the Radar, Envoi, Ink Sweat & Tears, and The Fenland Reed. His debut collection, forthcoming in 2021, is Earthworks.

the poems

Earthworks

West Kennett

00:00 / 00:34

                            I migrate back to this farmland

                            burdened for summer with corn,

                            where the mound distorts the harvest


                            and the great stones form the façade

                            of a house that swallows the dead

                            and has for centuries. On a ledge


                            inside the entrance a line of faces

                            stares down at me, their flesh

                            behind glossy feathers, and guarding


                            its nest is the swallow,

                            inverting the tomb into a cradle,

                            raising five lives from this chamber.

Listen to this

00:00 / 00:26

                            The river is fed by brooks that pour

                            sound down the hillside. A season of rain

                            fattens it. The level has risen

                            higher than I expected, but it is level still


                            and that is important: to stay balanced

                            no matter how much rain

                            has fallen, no matter how much you want

                            to flow with that water away from this place.

Sleepers

00:00 / 01:45

                            A curtain of ferns

                            spreads at eye height

                            to a child and parts

                            from the push of a hand


                            to expose

                            the shrinking clearing

                            and the treasure at its centre:

                            an ancient sleeper


                            laying like a sunken casket

                            and shrouded by a puzzle

                            of oak leaves. The specimen

                            ornamented with metalware:


                            rusted plates and bolts,

                            brooches carried by the dead

                            to the next station of life.

                            Close the curtains. Change the scene.


                            A figure stands at the end

                            of the platform, his face masked

                            by a flag. Steam

                            spirals around him,


                            a spire above rows of sleepers.

                            There is one line

                            drawn from childhood

                            through junctions to connections,


                            and the destination is close

                            to definition.

                            I feel the platform vibrate

                            from something about to begin.


                            The figure sounds his whistle.

                            His flag drops

                            and it is my face unmasked

                            and it's time to leave this dream


                            and I see it now. The trackbed

                            has lost its track and I have lost

                            track of time. I get up

                            to check my phone


                            but there’s no signal

                            and my daughter is asleep,

                            habitually dreaming

                            of a better life to travel in


                            and I see it now.

                            The ancient sleeper

                            is a relic, an inherited burden,

                            second-hand history.


                            I step outside,

                            and the first engine of the day

                            sets out light, and I see it now:

                            I know what to do.

Publishing credits

Earthworks: Ink, Sweat & Tears

Listen to this: Eighty Four – Poems on Male Suicide,

  Vulnerability, Grief and Hope (Verve Poetry Press)

Sleepers: Elsewhere

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