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‘The Repair Shop’ and other poems by Stephen Kingsnorth

By: Stephen Kingsnorth

The Repair Shop

Reframe the past to present view,
redeem the thread, death-broken skein,
returning swans, the flock in flight,
generations through nation’s life;
some stranger kindness, rescued hope,
surprised by grace, not just deserts,
an image, how it was with love –
or sound or movement, even feel.

What is repaired? The item brought,
yet that is simply tear from wear,
tarnished treasure, spoilt image cracked,
my father’s sacrificial work.
But burden lifted, glistening eyes,
no weight to wear or tear to cry,
object and memory restored,
a bridge collapsed is now rebuilt.



Why is it we have to theologise
when man Jesus told it as it was?
Surely that’s why found popular,
speaking words of common talk,
sick in heart and weary folk
who simply sort, to find release,
from bindings that religion taut.

‘Unbind him and let him go’
I recognise as clue for life.

A corporation rubbish dump,
smoke and smell and fetid vale
was how he pictured hell to us,
not some judgemental platitude,
and worse, the place where others go.
Who cares the temperature of hell,
indeed, the furniture of heaven,
when either share forward address
for harshest law, not winsome draw?

The plague is not my metaphor
when Galilee stands at the shore.

Take threats away, shift bribery,
even apocalyptic me,
and let him be, crouching in sand,
as others wait to throw first stone
then slink away as grains are scribed,
leaving the woman with herself,
and man who stands alone with her.


Treading Water

Tread water, as can be in dreams,
much effort to achieve no change,
with panic thrashing regular
as water sensed encroaching nose.
Ill plug, slow-weep, my anxious five,
terror that I would seep away
prompted my rush to wash, no play
could interfere my bathmat plan.

Luke-warm, through sheep-dip, fast-paced soles,
school straggle after sweatless field;
why was the dribble tepid drawn
yet by the drain distinctly grime?
I never dreamt comb hair required –
unsure mirror in changing rooms –
no risk that such could misted up,
or vanity should slow escape.

Recall, near sixty years passed by,
cross-country visit Coedpoeth,
escaping deep feet-clogging mud
to first hot wood endearing pool.
How years lazed through scan volume hours,
damp pages turned drip finger tips,
until these legs would not arise,
gave way to piping rain above.

Fearsome, this guardian was my home,
protective sac of jellied warmth;
now take my stand in clouding shower,
as used to wallow, chin-filled bath.
As divination, low-strain twig,
I want to find where waters break,
return to comfort where I was
and rest again where water trod.


Down at the Smithy

Beating ploughshares, furrow better,
planished silver in the earth,
forks, fresh tines to pierce cadavers,
leatherjackets in the mire.

Farrowed metal, pigs, no blankets,
brittle, unforgiving warp,
threadbare pegs wait twist and turning,
grip with dirty washer ring.

Malleus, the ears are winging,
ossicle to wear the drum,
belt the buckle, smash the crowbar,
scarecrow, distant, keeping stumm.

Sizzle water, bellow spitting,
bicep straining, bow the straight,
temper tantrum, weld protesting,
jolt this iron into shape.

Hear this anvil, cloud and altar,
there the words are smattered clear,
phrasing can by batter nurture,
smithy words are fashioned here.

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