The One Tree
(from Again Behold the Stars, Cinnamon Press 2023)
How she misses the company of chestnut woods
leaves arched above her head
like cockerels’ fancy tail-feathers
prickling shells to hurl at teasing brothers
Chestnut rafters steady the house
buckets take on curves in Nonno’s workshop
chestnut broth soothes her throat in dreams
chestnut bread haunts her tongue
She visits the one tree in the barren orto
fungus swells in the underbark where beetles gnaw
intricate galleries inside, the tree endures
Fallen leaves rug the winter woods
crushed underfoot smell sweetly brown
carry chestnut amicizia through February.
Wishbone-curved, it hangs
between forks and hoes in the lean-to.
He made it from the split trunk
of a chestnut sapling, not for the farm
but the small field near the house
where the children splashed in a trough,
hot July afternoons. Made it slender,
carved the top like a prow, to slide
into the crook between two boughs,
each rung narrower than the last
as he ascended through curled leaves,
wasps, breaks of sky. He'd straddle the frame,
fill a basket to the brim; cherries
for the sour-sweet jam they liked
more than anything. These days, it's rare
he'll venture to the orchard. One son's
a bank clerk, one's in California. Hard
to come by now, these scalandrini; might
be worth a bit, if anyone remembered
the shack overgrown with vines,
the ladder, bone-dry, silvering
in the dark among the onion-wreaths.
Scalandrino won the McClellan Poetry Prize in 2014
The Hospital at Night
Scrawled charts, sheets
reefed in tight; this trolley-bed
wants to sail away down the ward,
out beyond the lighthouse
where nurses shelter mugs
of cocoa, fancy biscuits. One bay
is lit up inside its floral tent,
Shadow dancers loom and fade,
too distant to distinguish
the music, chink of glasses,
words murmured above the moan
of waves. I patrol the channel
between dreamers, fog-horners
battened under blankets, or rocking
on the surface, tiny torch lights
trained on open pages, the flotilla
of the unsleeping. I lean one hand
on my wheeled rig, its bag of piss,
its trailing tubes, and haul up alongside.
The Hospital at Night was shortlisted for the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2010
There's a fracture known as the Open Book
often seen in these cases. Here, an angle
of bone I call the Swallow. Deep in shadowy fields,
the outline of something we almost recognise
and long to name: coat-hanger? Leaping dolphin?
Look, where mist obscures the columns,
the boy with a broken wing is waiting
for our help, though he's by no means sure
that help is what he needs. That swoop
under the sun, pure joy, even the wrench
of falling must have seemed fated. Burnished.
But we've no time for all that, goose pinions
fixed with wax. Another story starts. Show me again
your landmarks. Fetch the scalpel. Where do we begin?
X-Ray Vision was shortlisted for the Troubadour International Poetry prize 2012
Baby Maria long-awaited, garlanded in lace, enthroned and bawling
in a wide black pram.
Maria, our Virgin of Humility gowned in blue settled on the ground with baby Jesus
in a car park full of angels.
Maria in the corner shop, cutting ham into pink petals in the slicer.
Maria Lady of Succour
who saved the town from invasion.
Wild Maria of the torrent who lives on her own.
Terra cotta Maria in a niche
above the iron-work shop;
her calm, cracked smile runnelled with rain.
Crazy Maria, zucchini buds in her hair.
Silent Maria in the shadows
of her shrine; offerings of dried grass, cross-bow arrows, a jar
of wood anemones, a football scarf.
Scabby Maria sent home
for fighting in the playground.
Miraculous Maria of the Snowballs in August.
Easter Maria in a back room
at the Comune, waiting for the electrician to mend her fairy-light halo.
Maria named in a poster
on the wall by Sant' Egidio, departed this life last week, loved and missed by her family,
a photo from the 1980s framed in black.
Marias won first prize in the Battered Moons poetry competition 2013
Notwithstanding was highly commended in the Rialto/RSPB poetry competition 2013