Three Poems by Joel Scarfe

While Trees

While trees bend awkwardly
in the wind, as if to understand
human agony, the rain attempts to find
some meaning in the dust. The cobwebs bloom
with their flowers of death, and it seems that
everything that can be said
will not be said. I walk amongst a conspiracy
of shadows, and vegetation I cannot name,
and it remains clear that neither hope nor despair
are communicated
in the leaden eyes of a vulture, as it circles
above, like a dumb substitute for god.
While trees bend awkwardly
in the wind, I think
of ruined love.

The Cemetery on Otley Road

Young lovers are walking through the cemetery
on Otley Road, picking out names
for children yet to come. They are oblivious
to rain, tanning an old stone wall,
the petrol station’s orange glow.
There is such sweet pressure in you, such hope
in your darkly falling leaves, that I want to walk
amongst your dead. I want to imagine
their eyes, their clod-heavy heads,
twisting around to hear me
as I pass.

Bad News

Early September, already the wasps
are drunk on rotting apples
and are goring the air
with their terrible music.
It’s the first time in weeks
that I’ve thought about winter
at all – its heart, like a pail of water
spilling down the steps
of an abandoned church
in the dark hours
of morning. I wonder if this
is what it’s like
to come home from your doctor
with bad news.


Joel Scarfe’s poems have featured in numerous magazines and periodicals, in print and online, including Ambit, London Magazine, TLS, Rialto and The North. He lives in Bristol UK with the Danish ceramicist Rebecca Edelmann and their two children.

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