Four poems by Caroline Davies

CAROLINE DAVIES has an MA in Writing Poetry from the Poetry School and Newcastle University. Her books are Elements of Water (Green Bottle Press 2019), Convoy(2013) Voices from Stone and Bronze(2016) (Cinnamon Press).  She co-hosts the Ouse Muse poetry readings (Bedford) currently taking place online.  These poems are from her latest project, Strange Alchemy, poems inspired by the life and works of Paul Nash (1889-1946).

The Pencil Game

This baby was a mystery, a gentle swell

in my wife’s tummy like a wave waiting to break.

Now he gazes at us with his dark eyes

a thick shock of black hair.

I have stumbled into his childhood

without any thought of how to be a father.

I have invented a game with a pencil.

It has to be a red one, he has no interest in black.

As I move it towards him, his fingers open like a starfish

then close with the pencil tightly grasped.

Portrait of the Artist as a Student

In my bedsit the walls are restless with roses,

flowers and buds trail from ceiling to the floor

as if the briars hid a sleeping beauty.

They grow in my dreams,

reach out with bristling stems,

surround my bed with towers of thorns.

I cover the walls with paper of palest grey

and hang curtains of darkest blue,

a midnight shade, to screen the world outside.

The room falls silent, a glass of clear water.

Now I can begin.

I poured out my sovereigns amongst the teacups

Gold, pure gold and freshly-minted

as if the Carfax Gallery was the Bank of England,

with a clatter coins went for a spin and roll

across the table before they came to a rest.

Carrington’s hair gleamed a red-gold halo

lit by an inner flame above her pale shoulders.

I slipped down to the floor to sit, cross-legged,

beside her and she poured tea

into a mismatched cup and saucer,

all delicate bone-china,

the tea black with a smoky taste

not like the dust-grey canteen stuff,

the room warm and incandescent,

and for a moment I was in heaven.


This thin peace is like gruel.

England a dismal place,

I am unable to settle.

I feel exhausted all the time.

Days pass as if I am asleep.

All I can do is paint.

The movement of the brush

across the canvas

leaves a thick brown trail.

I must purge what is in my head:

blasted trees – blood red clouds.

Here, outside, the corn ripens in the fields.

All I can do is paint.

I must rob the war

of its last shred of glory.