Jacob Polley

June 24, 2013

Jacob Polley

This is a poem by the British poet Jacob Polley, born in 1975. Its from his first collection The Brink, published by Picador in the UK.

I like his work, and I particularly wanted to include it here because you can find it in a really good book about poetry and poems by Ruth Padel, published in the UK by Chatto and Windus: The Poem and the Journey. Buy this book its worth the spend and worth the read.


My father kept a stove
with dogs legs
On a pink hearthstone.

One morning he climbed down the icy stairs
And spread his palms
On the blood-warm metal flanks.

He cranked open the iron doors,
like a black banks safe
but found no heat and ash heaped in its place.

He cracked grey whittled coals
released brief blue flames,
And knocked downy soot through the bars of the grate.

The ash-pan, softly loaded
and almost as wide as a doorway,
he carried like dynamite through the dark house,

his bright face blown with smuts.
At the back door
he slid the ash into a tin dustbin,

then snapped sticsk,
crumpled newspaper,
struck a match

and dipped it between the kindling.
Smoke unrolled, flames spread,
the rush of the stove eating air started up,

and my father would shake on rocks
from an old coal hod
and swing the doors shut.

But this time
he took a book, broke its spine
and slung that instead:

his diaries
year by year
purred as their pages burned,

their leather boards shifted, popped
and fell apart.
Soon I would arrive,

pulled from under my mothers heart,
and grow to watch my father
break the charred crossbeam of a bird from the flue.

wondering if I too
had hung in darkness and smoke,
looking up at the light let down her throat
whenever my mother sang or spoke.