Three poems by Janet Murray



Whacked onto frosty grass,

his fur coat’s soaked in melting ice

but his teeth don’t chatter. His tribal stripe’s there,

tapering arse curved to stumpy tail, muscly shoulders

bolted to giant feet, tipped with muddy claws.

I turn him with both hands, ruffle the fur along his spine,

part thin hair combed over belly-skin,

expose two pink studs, his baby nipples.

They prickle my DNA.


How to write a conceptual poem


Don’t just watch the bees

building in the crevices of your house ―

see the house from inside the cracks

through bee-eyes. Cast thin chasms

with cold cure rubber, squeeze out the mould

like jelly-on-a-plate, fill with black bronze,

bash the crumples, create a petrified meta-script.

Bend into a hopscotch, lay on a pavement

number the squares with chalk, throw

a small cinder ― follow it― jump between edges

judder the mortar and erase it again.

Fold A4 paper, then scalpel-cut

an Amazon journey along the crease, unfold

and cruise a picture-poem ― melt a silver teaspoon

pull a metal skein, spin the tallest story so it crashes down

the full length of Niagara. Search the margins

of old books, find the stain of an ancient flood,

give it centre-stage and re-invent again.

Slash your forearm, forge the blood

into alphabet shapes. Read the letter A aloud

or a word containing A which can’t sprout

from the ground without the pollen-dusting

that attracts the bees and, unlike the bees, resist

the scent of orange blossom wafting through the flues.


A boy and his dog

(Byron at Newstead Abbey)


A boy limps round a gargoyled quad

kicking Autumn crocuses, runs

after Woolly his dog whose mother

was a wolf. The boy always lags behind

because of his damaged foot. They rest

by the Mirror Pond, he trails fingers

for the carp to nibble, regards his reflection.

He eats a bag of figs and peaches picked

from the North wall, and watches wrens flying

round walnut trees. He keeps the Abbey ruins

in sight where he daydreams monks flitting

in and out of cloisters, their faces hidden

by hoods; smells the fragrance of the lavender

garden wafting from their robes, gives names

― Harold, Manfred ― to the satyrs made of lead,

who stand either side of the orangery.


Janet Murray is a Northerner. She grew up in Lancashire and has spent a large part of her life in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. She completed an MA in Writing (with Merit) at Sheffield Hallam University in 2016, and previously gained a BA Hons in English at King’s College London. She has worked as a Senior Manager in public service. Her interests are in visual art and people. These, she says, are her landscape.

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