Andy Nuttall hails from Lancashire and is now settled in the North East of England where he's a social worker. A late bloomer (his first published poem appeared in Acumen in September 2020), he lives with Susan and pup Fraser. Andy intends to use all the remaining ink in his pen to write many more poems around diverse themes.
The Baker of Idlib
In Idlib Province a small knot of dough
Has risen slowly to its oven spring,
Delicately chambered and crusted gold.
This day they will again have bread to break
Together in the village and the children
Who are left to play in the rubble
Of their lives will savour a morsel of comfort.
What will we give them next to dream of, I wonder?
Perhaps the spot where blood smears stone
And a man – a baker – lies dying, still proving himself.
Down the long colonnade of limes
The plumed galea of centuries
Swept by in martial lines,
Forty miles south of Arbeia
The great fort of the Arabs
Where the wall meets the sea and sky.
At Pons Teys, or the crossing ford,
The Asturian cavalry paused,
Surveyed the coursing water and led
Their sandalled ponies through the shallows.
Stood by the weathered soldiers
Clasped their woollen cloaks a little closer,
Unknowing why like loosened stones
They had been flung so hard and far
Into this northern frigidarium.
In the northlands of Brigantes;
Old realm of Cartimandua:
Regina, loyal subject of Rome;
Cunning vixen; self-indulgent snake
And, just for good measure,
That treacherous Celtic bitch.
Tacitus spat her name through curled,
Orator’s lips two millennia ago.
To the victor echo the spoils;
To the literate, as always, the last word.
She makes her daily rounds for daily bread
As the turning world takes up us all
In its vast and intricate continuance.
Labour has become for her the beginning
And the end of all that is worth doing.
Life after all is habit forming.
She might be otherwise were it not.
Were it not for the iron of her control
Creasing back some semblance of order
And form her determination might falter.
Enter a bright, long-limbed, precocious boy,
Flooding her world with effervescent joy,
His treasure grows as he does notching
Up the door frame, his worth accumulating.
Lost to time the years work free of her raw hands
Like a child’s spinning-top set loose.
Gone the glee of that colour and movement,
Of the youthful race run rapid to white water
And where it slows to a stop in a still pool
Much is undone. His milky adolescence
Has thickened, curdled and gone sour.
Doors open and close. Yard leaves scurry.
She is stooped now in the galley kitchen,
Sifting through a pile of strangers’ washing,
Wishing for the weight of something nameless
In her head to shift, to be set right:
His appearing quite unexpectedly
In time for supper, smiling down on her
As fresh as the daffodils in her cut-glass vase,
Each yellowing heart wrung out for him.
The Baker of Idlib: Acumen (Issue 98)
Cartimandua / Iron: exclusive first publication by iamb