Sheila Jacob – three poems

The Shell

Yours was the first corpse I’d seen
though I wince at the word: harsh,
impersonal, which in a way it was
when I stood in the Viewing Room

that midwinter morning, half-afraid
to kiss you, say a final goodbye.
I recognized you at once, pleased
they hadn’t lacquered drifts of white

hair, replaced pyjamas and pink cardi.
But your arctic face chilled my lips
and I knew if I knelt close, pressed
the curl of my ear against your breast

I’d hear no crash of waves trawling
the coral and driftwood of ninety years,

no echoes of a gushing, hushing ocean
scooping your sacred breath in its tide,
turning at the moon’s far rim where
your soul left its shell and took flight.

Days Like This

We sat together
at the old drop-leaf table
pulled out and laid
with white linen cloth,
square cork place- mats,
green plastic cruets
and silver mustard pot.

I ate my bubble & squeak
pretending not to care,
watched Mum and Dad
exchange knowing looks.

There’d be more days like this.

Not speaking until spoken to,
not spoken to until the father
I loved relented, accepted
my promise to be a good girl.

Was I a bad girl?

Obstreperous Dad proclaimed,
hung the name around my neck.

I carried it to bed,
slept with it on my pillow
while the need to stifle and deny
shadowed me upstairs
then tangled
beneath my eiderdown.

Dad died a few years later.

Almost fifteen, I’d learned
to stitch and mend;

tacked and hemmed my grief
inside the smart new suit
I wore at his funeral.


Mid-December, the day dusk-blue
by mid-afternoon, the moon
a crescent of spun gold
silvered in ice.
I watch how steadily
it hangs, so close
I could climb plaited ropes,
curl in the spine-curve
of its surface.
I knew this moon
before Dad named it
one bedtime, pointed to
a peeled-apple face
familiar as my own
sugar-mouthed and smiling
between garden trees.

I thought it lived next to us,
came on holiday
to the Isle of Wight,
returned when it saw
our ferry leave.


Smog fell swifter than darkness
in the Winter of ‘38,
bandaged the turrets of Villa Park,
muffled turnstiles and footsteps
after Saturday’s game.
Street lamps wore gauzy masks.
Yellow buses crawled, bleary-eyed.
Dad turned up his collar,
rolled a cigarette and walked,
the moon opening the sky
with its glinting coinage:
a sixpence, shilling, half-a-crown
shining over a railway bridge,
beyond the gasworks,
down crabbed alleys,
ballooning into silk
above the back-to-back
he called home.

Sheila Jacob is 65 and three-quarters, was born and raised in Birmingham and lives with her husband in North Wales. She resumed writing poetry in 2013 after a long absence. Since then she’s had poems published in Sarasvati, The Dawntreader, The Cannon’s Mouth and in the first issue of Dotty and the Dreamers.

4 thoughts on “Sheila Jacob – three poems

  1. E.E. Nobbs July 28, 2016 / 3:09 pm

    Poignant and memorable – all three poems full of effective imagery, showing us about time, place and family ties. Fine work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • shekath August 1, 2016 / 5:57 pm

      Thank you Elly, I really appreciate your comment.xx


  2. Robert Nisbet July 28, 2016 / 6:44 pm

    I really like ‘The Shell’ -it’s so truthful to so many of our strongest feelings about bereavement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • shekath August 1, 2016 / 5:59 pm

      Many thanks,Robert,I’m very glad this poem worked for you.


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