Weekend Poetry: Four Suffolk Poems

The Starlings at Semer Church

It is still not known

how the birds became so lost,

or cold, or cowed;


why they took refuge

in the highest place

but that initial sight of them,


as he clambered

to inspect the bells

was to shock him for an age.


That they had remained

somewhat iridescent

was a comfort,


but the stillness,

and amount (it took three bags

to carry them down)


settled in his dreams.  

A day for testing chime

saw him lifting up


the juveniles,

feel each stalk of neck flop back.

Perhaps the cause:


a dusky murmuration.  

All of them, so exalted

by the swoop


they charged the bell tower’s

open arches in a rush.

Or maybe it took four strays,


their yellow beaks tap-tapping

at the bronze,

calling the flock to come.  


However they arrived, they stayed.

At ease with the brush of rising

souls against their wings.


He hopes they trilled on Sundays

as the parish nestled into pews.  Little birds

of the belfry, rejoiced in private hymn.


Ager Fen

You packed with some certainty:

toy fox, binoculars,


small notebook,

the biro-of-many-colours.


I hold your hand on the path,

recall when here was wilder.  


No posts bearing blue arrows,

no designated trail.


I’d come with my sister

and brothers -


oblivious to Goat’s-beard,

Colt’s Foot, Hoary Ragwort  -


all around us the stuff of spells.

Our parents let us go


to scamper into darker pockets,

leap from stumps lush with moss.


Everything aloof about me

fell into the soil


once charged with younger siblings

and freedoms of a wood.


Now here you are, with your pen,

keen to label each bird’s call.


I give you a damp valley floor, daughter.

Watch you nascent on the loam.



(Dean, 32, Lime Plasterer)


All the stories are here.


You take off the old,

and what crumbles


uncovers birds, coins,

hats rested for centuries.


Often pipes,

where men before you


paused in equal summer heat,

because it taxes the limbs


this work; circumference of a wrist

bearing the weight of wet lime,


hawk heavy

with hair, chalk, water.


How benign plaster looks -

the inviting


sludge of its cream

but it has burned,


too long on your palms.

The minor cargo of tools:


trowels, small and worn-in,

biddable to the veer  


as the building pulls you

around its frame. This is method


old as fable: a scratch coat’s

score of lines for key,


the seeming ease

with which you sweep.



it is still my favourite thing

(for J & R)


When you see the child I feed, hold

and steer towards her seventh year,

such tasks are not new to me.


I tell you I have step-children

but the fact they can’t be seen, here at the swings,

means they’re too far to seem real.


Rather than persist with the complex story

of how I came to love them,

I’ll take you on a necessary quest into the city -  


going underground and over, heading east

into the bustle, to see their beautiful liberated limbs

so far from playgrounds now.  


I was not the vessel for their birth so their beauty

is a thing I can unashamedly announce.  

They flourished from the mould of their mother,


what they gleaned from her features clear enough

to catch their father’s breath.  Perhaps

there is too much to explain, how I have these


young adults in my life, that I was present

for every single day they went to school.  

But I want you to notice them.  


The way they brush against each other

as they talk, and it is still my favourite thing,

to see them emerge in the grown shape


of their bodies, at ease in this city’s crowds,

waving and walking towards me.


  • Rebecca Goss has two volumes of poetry to her name, The Anatomy of Structures and Her Birth, which was shortlisted for The Forward Prize and won the poetry section of The East Anglian Book Awards. In 2013, she return to live in Suffolk where she grew up.


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Weekend Poetry: Three Poems

Poetry from A. M. Juster