Mark Totterdell – four poems


Plumage as grey
as the smoke in the valley,
patched black and white,

bird-bits dismembered,
stuck back together;
a hawk’s hooked beak,

tail of a magpie,
woodpecker wings…
that’s a shrike!

it keeps the heath
within its scope,

then launches into
a sparrow-kestrel hover,
then strikes.

Fears arise
over the fate
of each small subject;

each unseen victim,
initially wriggling,
stuck on a spike;

then radiate
as up from the valley
plumes the grey smoke.


I’m balanced on the parapet.
Beer has been drunk. I’m hoping to impress
a woman, but she hasn’t looked back yet.

Or it’s a bet.
The cars below are tiny. Then I fall…
and wake up in a sweat.

What spins my head
is thinking of that universe
just parallel to this one,
where I’m half a lifetime dead.

The Turf

The haunt of otter, the haunt of avocet,
the fields half water, the water opposite
half mud, its outer edge a habitat
for all of these utterly elegant black-and-white

waders. The other? All I have of it,
all I can get, a far glimpse of a set
of pawprints. Bitter? Thanks, I’d love a bit;
a half of Otter, a half of Avocet.

The Double Locks

The thin lane, the towpath, the green field paths
by the river, the water road; there are ways
to come here. There are ways to be elsewhere.
Intersecting the cycle track, there’s a hint

of another trail, where something I imagine
wet, whiskered and fish-breathed has passed by,
through the long wild grasses from the wetlands,
and printed faint signs in mud onto the tarmac.

Mark Totterdell’s poems have appeared in many magazines and have occasionally won prizes. His first collection, This Patter of Traces, was published by Oversteps Books in 2014. His website is at


One thought on “Mark Totterdell – four poems

  1. mavismoog March 21, 2016 / 11:01 am

    Excellent! Can I choose a favourite? Parapet for its succinct depth, The Turf for its humour, The Double Locks for its mystery and Shrike for its unexpected use of the word “spike”. Great avocet of poems.


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