Two Poems by Penny Boxall


I posted this when I got back from Hawthornden in the winter of 2017, where I spent a month writing and painting watercolours. And here are two poems by Penny – who was also a fellow, one for Jean Findlay – who plays the bagpipes and is editor of Scotland Street Press – and one for me, celebrating a walk we took up the glen (it is more of a ravine) leading one up to nearby Rosslyn Castle.


(‘Preserve Harmony’)


for Jean


The pipes have fainted – all limp neck

and stomach, the air knocked out of them.

You pick them up; they loll.

It does not look promising.

Unfussed, you settle them and start

bestowing mouth-to-mouth although

they’ve never lived. Notwithstanding,

spines bristle and resuscitate.

Launching is the trick: a bid for balance

among chancy toots and goose-chase spurts.

You bloat the bag with your latest lungful,

prompting with a good sharp nudge.

The pipes agree an open span which could mean anything –

in itself glad nor glum, but compatible with both.

The tune’s your call. You’ve got the edge;

we’re asking you to fill in all the blanks.



(‘God is our Guide’)


for Anthony


The river’s cut these rocks out by degrees –

slowly, over centuries. We cannot fathom this.


The path flirts hard with the edge,

tempting fate. We wish it wouldn’t.


It’s disguised with beech leaves

like a wealth of unearthed coins.


The horizon tumbles with loose stones

down the ravine; the water, below, repeats itself.


You sketch. I sit and eat a chilly lunch

overlooking that big nothing, not thinking much.


Round the corner we encounter a couple –

outdoorsy types in defining black, like spies.


He’s urging her onto a sublime ledge,

an empty niche above the nerveless drop.


We could be witnessing a betrothal

or a murder. If one precludes the other.


He squares himself to the terrible view;

she squats, not looking. She’s inches from the brink.


He holds the camera high to get the shot.

I wonder what they’ll find in future


to hold over each other – a lie, perhaps, or

thoughtlessness – and whether that will feel at all like this.



Penny’s book Ship of the Line is published by Eyewear



About anthonyhowelljournal

Poet, essayist, dancer, performance artist....
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.