Jena Woodhouse’s publications include two poetry collections and a novel, Farming Ghosts (Ginninderra 2009). A collection of short stories, Dreams of Flight, is about to be published by Ginninderra.






Muswell Hill Road, London N10

It was a summer of high hopes –
of what, we weren’t entirely clear;
it was enough to be in London:
theatre, bookshops, pied-a-terre –
a good address to house-sit, owners’
prized possessions stowed upstairs.

We respected privacy
and primacy of others’ chattels,
but our son, who didn’t
understand exclusiveness,
would steal up to the absent
children’s nursery, spend hours there,
a toy he’d found clutched in his hands,
delighting his small grip.

There was a sense of people we
should meet, but somehow never did;
Highgate Cemetery close by –
Karl Marx, angels, Lizzie Siddal,
lately joined by Alexander
Litvinenko’s lead-lined casket.

Opposite, the dim green dolour
known as Highgate Wood
wove its late-Victorian trance,
reeking of untimely ends:
oaks decked with garlands, messages
from friends lamenting early deaths
in this last remnant of the ancient
forest realm of Middlesex.

A melancholy bubble waits to rise,
to take me by surprise;
I think of time’s attrition as a thief
that skulks beneath my bed.
Oh to be in England!
pipes a small voice in my head.
At her third attempt to access
inner elbow, hand, then wrist,
the pathologist draws blood.
The vein resists, then gives its best.


Birds for Evie

Arid spaces in me crave
paint in captivating shades:
saturated saffron, cyclamen,
alizarin; cinnamon and pomegranate,
fresh as cries of morning birds
in ancient lands; Armenia,
Uzbekistan, Iran…

I give Evie a flock of larks,
tinged with bright naïveté,
simple as the day, and artless
as a child who paints for joy;
but they are only semblances
of tin that rattle in the wind,
trinkets looped upon a string
that neither fly nor sing.