★ ★ ★ ★


I am the one who puts them there

Every night a different dream.
In some you drown, in others burn.
In one you shrink, size reflecting
your sense of insignificance.
Another sees you stretched
– skyscraper wide and full of falling.

When you wake – not sweating
but shaken dry – you tell me
half remembered details.
I cup your cheek, press a palm
to your heart; the pounding slows.
Your limbic system relaxes.

I feel your frustration – the words
don’t do justice to the fear that held you.
Don’t worry – I know what your dreams do
deep inside your mind.

We All Bought into the Myth

of intense passion – undeniable,
burning. We repeated the clichés
among ourselves, soothing words about
the moth to the flame, how he was
your Heathcliff. We wanted
to believe it was something more
than the common-or-garden
abusive relationship.

You told yourself lies to make
a truth for us: the in-betweens
make up for the fights; he’s fine
most of the time; things
are not as bad as they look.

We all watched as, like a child
with a pencil, he snapped you

into smaller and smaller bits.

When They Call Something a Warzone

what they usually mean
is the loudness of battle: the clacking
of AK47s, the rumble, two streets away,
of somebody else’s tanks.
Or they think of grainy night-time news footage
of raids, a flash of explosions
dimmed and small upon the TV screen.

I think of the other meaning –
where the war has been. Craters and rubble mounds,
holes in the walls of family
homes, hastily strung screens
opposing the darkness.
Someone cooking beans in a blackened pot.
You still need
to eat, even when all you know
is in ruins. When your children
are blank-eyed, worse than dead
and no-one is looking.

Penny Blackburn is a Yorkshire writer living in the North East of England. Among others, her work has been published with Atrium, Riggwelter, Fragmented Voices and Maytree Press and her first pamphlets will be available from Yaffle and Wild Pressed Books in Spring 2021.


  1. Mel Eaton

    Thanks Penny! Really enjoyed the reads! Poems open up so many questions – hopefully get to ask you them next time we meet up!

  2. Anonymous

    Love these poems 🙂


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