Helen Evans – three poems

The stranger

I’m on the rocky shore at Kaikoura,
the furthest I’ve ever been from home,
when I notice the seagulls mobbing him
above the wide bay where he’s dived
to bring back whatever he’s found.

He’s just finished cutting away
the guts from the edible flesh,
and is rinsing a Paua shell clean.
It’s bigger than my cupped hands
and shaped like a coracle.

He tilts it until the sun
catches the iridescence inside:
purple and green and blue,
the sheen and the gleam
and the dazzle of it,

and I’m already thinking of keeping
my few small treasures in it
when he hands it to me with a half-smile
and tells me it’s a present,
knowing, he says, I’ll pass the kindness on.


Abandoned by its owner
or the burglar
next to a seven-barred gate
into a rural valley
where the pasture’s singed brown
and the wind plucks single oak leaves
and whirls them down,
the Goodmans telly’s
squatting in the angle of the gatecut,
square on to the lane.
Its dark grey plastic’s
pockmarked with candle grease;
its screen’s scuffed
in two places, a lifeless green.
I stand watching it for ages.

Carduelis carduelis

I wanted to capture the spirit of the goldfinch
sunlit against dark cloud
left over from last night’s rain

its white-beige-yellow-red-black presence
perched loud above
the hornbeam’s May-green leaves

but while I fiddled with the lens
to focus on the bird
it flew.

Helen Evans’s pamphlet, Only by Flying, drawing partly on her experience as a glider pilot, was published by HappenStance Press in 2015. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews. Her website is www.helenevans.co.uk

Helen Evans – three poems

A flight past Mount Aspiring

Racing through remote
unlandable mountains,
a wingspan from the rockface,

we cross the next arête,
hesitate: staring up
a 10,000-foot peak,

down dark cliffs
to a slate-green,
ice-edged lake.

I’m six again,
exploring wintry puddles
along a rutted track.

Then a weight
of sun-warmed snow
breaks and slides downslope,

pausing and piling up on
one narrow ledge,
collapsing again down the cliffs,

bruising the water
before it hits.


Perhaps once in a season
it lines up like today –
cold with low stratus all morning
but when you finally get to the airfield

the cloud’s burning back to blue sky
with flat-based cumulus forming
in a just-strong-enough south-westerly
and before you know it

you’re at the top of the wire,
releasing in rising air,
levelling your glider’s wings
to soar across country

up a cloudstreet that’s aligned itself
with the instant of your arrival.

The derelict churchyard

Traces of the tombstones’ lettering
are inked in by black moss, but can’t be read.
A capital. A skull. One Latin word.
What might have been a face. A date of death.

Inside the mass of pale forget-me-nots
heaped up on graves like blizzard-driven snow –
two sparrow chicks, begging to be fed.

Helen Evans is based in Exeter, Devon. Her work has been published in The Rialto, The North, Obsessed with Pipework and The Broadsheet, while her poem ‘Night Crossing’ came third in the Manchester Cathedral International Poetry Competition.

Her first pamphlet, Only By Flying, has just been published by HappenStance Press.

Her website is at helen-evans.co.uk