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Jerome Betts

Jerome Betts lives in Devon, England and edits the quarterly Lighten Up Online. His verse has appeared in a wide variety of British magazines and anthologies as well as UK, European, and North American web venues such as Amsterdam Quarterly, Angle, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The New Verse News, Per Contra, The Rotary Dial, and Snakeskin.



View Of The Old Market

The sun comes out. Street-closing hills that climb
     Below the scoops of cumulus from Wales
Are woodland backdrops lit for pantomime,
     Bright as the ribbons round the horses’ tails.
 
Where steam-frilled dung and strawy puddles mix
     In iron pens, the mud-scaled cattle groan;
 The auctioneers outbawl the rapping sticks
     And rattling bars and hobnails scraped on stone.
 
Lost in the din, the gaiters, boots and wheels,
     The lambs cry, unregarded. Overhead,
The clock, white marble up in front, conceals
     That all behind is brickwork’s weathered red.
 
A stray dog pauses, sniffs, then, deaf to shouts,
Swings up its leg against a net of sprouts.

(Published by Pennine Platform)                                



Passing The Churchyard 31st October

Inside the railings’ black iron cage, the stones
Stick from the hummocked turf like crooked teeth
Outlined in moss and scrawled with lichen-stains.

Sheep rub their sides on names and dates of death.

They cough, half-seen, a mist-wreathed munching flock
Near the town’s heart at night, sepulchral shapes
That startle walkers who with no qualms look
At carcasses on hooks in flesh-hung shops.

(Published by Angle)


               
In Northampton Museum

Among the hide-and-canvas lace-ups made
For some poor elephant’s giant tender feet
And leathery minutiae of trade
     In boots, dissected or complete,

Mint Army-issue, every shade of bruise,
With Tudor scraps from trenches workmen dig,
You find a case containing John Clare's shoes,
    Asylum-worn, and very big.

(Published by Angle)



Border Landscape

The blue cloudbank trenchwalling the horizon
Turns to conifer-serrated slope
Backed by dark-green canvas with water dashing from rents.

Pale velvety dust cushions the feet.
Under the overarched wickerwork of the branches
Sievings of sunlight spangle the path.

Thin sheep-worn partings cross the mountainside’s matted hair
A lamb’s body, dried out on dropping-strewn turf,
Is insubstantial as a loofah.

(Published by Snakeskin)


 
On A November Sunday

The wind whips through the leaves, which whirl and fly
Among survivors in the city’s heart
Like ghosts of summer, till the gun’s report.

Exposed to no worse than a camera’s eye,
One man went back, to stand, now warm and dry,
Across from where, beside a dull canal,
The German he was told to snipe once fell
And slithered head first down the bank to die.

Silence and leaves, then, at the bugles’ hint,
That shot again, that fall, that slow descent,
Those legs stuck up for days from watery sky.

(Published by Snakeskin)                                

                

Faecal Footprints

(On reading of a book entitled The Interpretation
of Geological Time from the Evidence of Fossilised
Elephant Droppings in Eastern Europe
.)

Though that fickle Grecian floozy’s
   Kept it, till today, unsung,
Petrified primaeval oozes
    May preserve an ancient tongue.

Lives of pachyderms inform us
    Beasts can soar to epic heights
And, departing, leave enormous
     Dumps of future coprolites.

Data-rich, well worth decoding,
    Dung from great grey long dead herds
Gets geologists downloading
    Time’s own language, giant turds.

So then, Fido, if admonished
   That your motions foul the nest,
Look ahead, and see, astonished,
    Scholars read what dogs digest.
 
(Published by Snakeskin)



Anti-Nashional

Let us pause to consider Ogden Nash's piece which
    begins 'Let us pause to consider the English';
Let us pause to consider whether it makes sound
    American sense, or just jinglish.
I am not certain when his indictment was indited,
While I am quite sure it leaves me not altogether
     totally satisfied and delighted.
This is nothing to do with the fact that he accuses
     us of such peccadilloes as pride and snobbery –
An occasional squirt of vinegar being a good
     antidote to the kind of Anglophilia that grows
     insidiously syrupy and slobbery –
But because the word ‘English’ runs like a refrain
    through his derogatory and derisive reflections,
Though they all seems to refer to the over-exposed
     upper-class or Downton Abbeyish sections.
My admiration for his works is so great I would
     hesitate to call him twittish,
Yet I can only conclude he must have been
    confusing us with those awful British.
 
(Published by Light)



Circular Saw

(With at least two apologies)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

That lovely tree, alas, (Sob! Gulp!)
Is long cut down and rendered pulp
For sheets on which to print, e.g.,
I think that I shall never see . . .

(Published by Per Contra)

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