Stewart Carswell

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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 / 00:34

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

S h a r e

© original authors 2021

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