Ali Jones – two poems

How to Be Your Father

Comment on the speed of others
and suggest that it’s never necessary, until you put your own foot down
Develop a liking for tweed, wear checks and herringbone together for contrast
Realise that boiled sweets aid the concentration, while driving or attempting the cryptic crossword, always aim to complete it in less than ten minutes
Know the names and ways of garden birds and what to feed them, be the first to hear the Bittern booming when you visit waterlands at dawn
Play regular oracle games with your keys, divine them frequently in unexpected places
Covet a special tin, keep treats in it and hide it badly in plain sight from seeking eyes of others
Study the Telegraph with the attitude of a Guardian reader
Realise you are a socialist, and what little you can achieve might mean the world to someone, so do it with grace
Pour by the finger, a golden liquid, the peatier the better, savour it on your breath, because you know smoking is bad for you
Enjoy the RSC and Spaghetti Westerns in equal measure
Read every night until you fall asleep, never stop learning, always leave the lights on


How to Be Your Mother

Begin to bulk buy margarine, for baking purposes only
Know common flowers and garden weeds by their complex botanical names
Teach your children Latin and Italian musical terminology in equal measure
Talk about language roots and family roots, they all lie under the tongue
Great Christmas wrapping paper when it’s on offer in January, even though you have nowhere to store it
Fight prejudice at every angle, challenge the neighbours’ reading materials, give them something more suitable
Walk the same paths as the seasons turn, map the year in flowers and trees, have the social media evidence to prove it
Lose all self-control around confectionary, consider boxed Maltesers a good meal
Twine string round your fingers and coil in drawers, months later, smugly use it to anchor beans
Feel your vowels sliding due north to grey skies and dancing harebells
Smoke screen the past into fine sepia, skein it around your fingers, needle it into a pattern for others to wear


Ali Jones is a teacher and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three.

Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Mother’s Milk Books, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and The Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016 and has also written for The Guardian.