Home | Rosemary Appleton

At night, the sounds of things settling:
pipes contract, fizz a little
bowed floorboards snap back, relax.
You’re used to your daughter’s breath
beside your own
so you don’t flinch at the sigh
which thrums in the air by your ear
at just that moment
when wakefulness tips into sleep

The garden heaves with broken china,
patterned fragments edging up
between the strawberry plants.
A wisp of fabric snags
against a beam, fades.

You maybe hear the click of the latch, a sound
as slight and familiar as the tick of your watch.
You maybe catch, as you turn, the flick
of a pale hem darting round the doorframe.
The time you had flu, you know you felt
a small, cool hand stroke your head.


Writer’s Commentary

In Home, I look at a slightly different intersection between the present and the past, an architectural intersection, by thinking about a house’s different historical inhabitants and the way in which a previous resident’s past life in a house can surface, through discovered objects or tinier traces, during a new occupant’s life. I aimed to show this as a benign force, not to veer too much into ghostly or supernatural territory, but just to show that the past can almost emerge, can be unexpectedly pervasive.


Rosemary Appleton writes in the wilds of East Anglia, fuelled by coffee. Her work has appeared in Mslexia, The Fenland Reed, Spontaneity and other places. She tweets @BluestockingBks

Evenings in early summer | Rosemary Appleton

and here we are by the water but not the scenic part, not near the tourists – we are lying under the trees, so far from the path that we freeze if we hear footsteps or people’s kind-voiced dog calls – we freeze because we’re half undressed in an oak tree’s dark shadow – half undressed because, although we have a marriage and a faith against us, we still seem to fall into each other, almost angry – and our time is fierce, a rough striving in the half light –
and here, decades ago, go my grandparents, walking home after the evening meeting, along this selfsame path, their Bibles under his arm – they are courting, stepping close through the water meadows reddening in the evening sun – her cotton skirt brushing the cow parsley’s white pepper flower heads – pausing at an oak, enjoying their proximity, they look into the darkening water and sense its contentment, its slow, sure swell.

Writer’s Commentary

In Evenings in early summer I describe different generations spending time in the same geographical place, where some physical, geographical things are constant, like the oak tree and the presence of water, and some metaphysical, cultural things change, such as each generation’s performance of intimacy. The waterside setting seems to reflect my concerns in the poem because the presence of the water is constant, though the water itself is of course moving through the years. I was also contrasting the calm certainty of a pre-war heterosexual, conventional relationship with the more ambiguous, maybe illicit, contemporary pairing described in the first part of the poem. The form of the prose-poem seems to lend itself to the snap-shot brevity of the two moments.

Rosemary Appleton writes in the wilds of East Anglia, fuelled by coffee. Her work has appeared in Mslexia, The Fenland Reed, Spontaneity and other places. She tweets @BluestockingBks

A Pen Boasts (from an Anglo-Saxon riddle) | Rosemary Appleton


Þæt is wundres dæl,
on sefan searolic      þam þe swylc ne conn,
hu mec seaxes ord       ond seo swiþre hond,
eorles ingeþonc      on ord somod,
þingum geþydan,       þæt ic wiþ þe sceolde
for unc anum twam       ærendspræce
abeodan bealdlice,      swa hit beorna ma
uncre wordcwidas     widdor ne mænden.

it is a wondrous thing,
an ingenious thought for those who don’t know of such things
how the point of a single-edged knife, the right hand,
a person’s inner thoughts and a sharp point together
all work to this end – that I, with you,
can confidently deliver our message
for us two alone, so that no one can broadcast
more widely what we two have said, each to the other.

Writer’s Commentary

Another way of looking at the interplay between the past and the present is to look back at some of the earliest literary languages, such as Anglo Saxon. I have created a loose translation in A Pen Boasts and I have included the original text because I think it is so evocative to see the original old letter-forms as well as the form of the riddle.

 I have given the answer to the riddle as the poem’s title because, now that we no longer whittle pens from pointed reeds, I don’t think anyone would get the answer! But it’s such a fascinating little riddle because the pen sees itself as the key, or the engine almost, unlocking or driving the whole written text. Having to make a pen from a reed with a sharp knife makes writing so much more physical, more muscular, than it is today.

 The poem equates the written word with privacy and intimacy and this is makes for a really intriguing ending: why should the message remain with the writer and their pen? Why should it not be repeated more widely? Perhaps this hints at a romantic intrigue or a family feud. At any rate, I feel that translating from an ancient language is, at first, a kind of archaeology, then a way of revoicing the original text through my interpretation, in a direct relationship with the past.

Rosemary writes in the wilds of East Anglia, fuelled by coffee. Her work has appeared in Mslexia, The Fenland Reed, Spontaneity and other places.

She tweets @BluestockingBks.