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Jonathan Humble



the poet

The poetry of Jonathan Humble, a retired deputy head teacher who lives in Cumbria, has appeared in numerous print and online magazines and anthologies. He's published a short collection of his work – Fledge – and is editor of the much-praised, much-admired children's poetry website, The Dirigible Balloon. As well as delivering poetry workshops in schools for Wordsworth Grasmere, Jonathan was Poet in a Fridge for Radio Cumbria's Poetry Takeaway during the BBC's Contains Strong Language Festival in 2020.

the poems

Derek’s Theory
of Quantum Stiles

00:00 / 00:51

                        Einstein phoned the other day.

                        Wanted to speak quite urgently

                        with my dog, Derek:

                        said that Derek’s theory of quantum stiles

                        was interesting but lacked empirical evidence

                        and wasn’t supported by the mathematics.

                        Derek disagreed:

                        described the process of walking with me,

                        taking the early morning river route 

                        along the side of the Kent under Cumbrian skies.

                        Every gate and stile a quantum barrier, 

                        separating countless possibilities

                        of constantly branching parallel universes:

                        facts on the far side of each wall blurred, 

                        until the stile is crossed 

                        with a new reality created through observation

                        … and sometimes, rewarded with a biscuit.

Red Pencil

00:00 / 01:36

                        I am six years old, my pencil breaks 

                        mid-word in Mrs Foster’s class. 

                        So I turn to my friend Martin, 

                        show him the pencil and whisper, 

                        ‘Martin, Martin, my pencil has broke.’

                        ‘Use this,’ he says and passes a substitute, 

                        secretly under our desk.

                        ‘But it’s a red pencil, Martin,’ I say.

                        He smiles a smile. It is an ‘it’ll all be okay’ 

                        sort of smile and so I carry on, 

                        copying lines of words I cannot read, 

                        but which I try my very hardest 

                        to replicate, as neat and true to the original 

                        as I am able, at six, to do. 

                        At the finish, I look down at my page 

                        of writing; my teacher’s lines above, 

                        with mine in red below, and I wonder 

                        about the words I have written. 

                        I am happy with the result of my effort; 

                        especially the esses, which are 

                        smooth and curvy, and flowing and lovely. 

                        They are the best I have ever done. 

                        So, I walk twenty paces to Mrs Foster’s desk, 

                        clutching my paper with pride, 

                        and return ten yards with a slapped leg, 

                        my work in shreds in a basket,

                        having a brand new perspective on the way of things,

                        and on the reliability of my friend Martin.

Early Morning

00:00 / 00:59

                        I fear porcelain is not your milieu

                        and your persistence in performing

                        eight-legged running man dances

                        up sheer white bathroom edifices

                        under the gaze and malevolence

                        of the attentive cat bastard 

                        flexing its tail on this toilet seat 

                        will prove an effrontery too far.

                        Darwin’s theory of natural selection

                        will happen well before adaptation occurs.

                        Before the hairs on your scopulae 

                        develop greater adhesive powers

                        and you are able to ascend unharmed,

                        I suspect you will become terribly broken.

                        So here I am again, 6:30 in the morning,

                        offering toilet paper ladders in the bath tub,

                        before I can shower in peace

                        and the furry purry assassin, 

                        so beloved in our household,

                        can be persuaded out of the bathroom

                        to wander off and find something else 

                        to murder instead.

Publishing credits

Derek’s Theory of Quantum Stiles:Tyger Tyger Magazine

Red Pencil: Atrium

Early Morning Effrontery: Fledge (Maytree Press)

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