That last birthday

what she gave me was a scarf
black, like a Leonard Cohen scarf
plain black, the finest wool
without adornment, matt, no pattern
generous enough for a full slack circle
and the ends hanging free
 
and she, half-hitching it beneath my chin
arranging drape in a cool Cohen way
then standing back, examining the fit
with a kind of pride
like a mother checking out
a uniform, first day
 
and face-to-facing me
a smile we both recognised
as terminal, and shifting closer
as an acquaintance might
to seal a presentation
with a handshake or a kiss

shifting close enough to grip
two-handed at those ends hanging free
the knot still slack and casual
but she – her feet firmly braced
for full throttle

– by Ian Royce Chamberlain. This poem was Commended in our 2016 competition –

Ian Royce Chamberlain aims to follow the maxim of ST Coleridge: ‘Poetry is the best words in the best order’. After a career in hard engineering he takes this to mean, ‘Put the bits together properly and it’ll work’.

Ian is a Moor Poet, co-founder of Teignmouth Poetry Festival and a regular at SW festivals and open-mic events. His inspirations are mainly the natural world and the minutiae of being human. While some pieces are written strictly for performance, his more serious work is intended to be deeply thought-provoking – but also readily accessible to people who are not habitual poetry readers. Poetry, he says, is form of communication – a two-way business which succeeds only if the listener or reader feels an immediate connection with the words.

His first collection, stumble into grace, was published in 2012; the second will appear during 2017.

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