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The Repose of Baghdad

Published in ‘Sandgrain and Hourglass’ (Bloodaxe Books, 2010)

If we ever meet again,
and I don’t see how we can,
it won’t be on the Avenida del Poeta Rilke
in Ronda,
or by the banks of the green Guadalquiver
or in Granada
where the sunset goes on till midnight,
it won’t be in any of those houses by the sea
we called our own,
or in the Plaza Abul Beka
where the house martins feed their fledglings
in mud-nests under the sills,
or in the square
where the foal above the fountain
watches his moon shadow
on the wall of an inn old when Cervantes knew it,
and it won’t be up in the mountains
where at the hottest hour of the day
one hundred thin long-faced wild sheep
pour out of a cave, as from the underworld.

If I ever see you again
it won’t be in the water mirrors
of the Alhambra
or in a building
that doesn’t know if its a cathedral
or a mosque
or by the fountains of the Garden of the Poets
in the Alcazar Real
or in the dark oratory
where they keep the writing bones
of St Juan de la Cruz, gift-wrapped
in white ribbons.

And if I ever travel north,
you won’t be sitting beside me
on the bus to Silverknowles,
Clovenhorn or Rosewell.

If I ever sleep with you again
it won’t be in our own eager bed
or in that haunted hotel four-poster at Glastonbury,
on the drunken sleeper to Paddington
or on board the QE2 well below the waterline,

we won’t sleep together
in any friend’s spare bed
or on a neighbour’s floor
after some burst pipe emergency
or in that hilarious sleepless bed
of our first year together,

no, if we ever meet again
(and how can we?)
it will be in a summer time has lost track of,
in a back-street hostal
hidden in a labyrinth of tiny white lanes,

two steps past the old Synagogue
and the dens of the silversmiths,
within the white walls
and behind the black window grilles
of The Repose of Baghdad,
still bearing, see it?
its faded sign of star and crescent moon.

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The Scattering

Published in ‘Sandgrain and Hourglass’ (Bloodaxe Books, 2010)

I cast you into the waters.
Be lake, or random moon.

Be first light,
lifting up its beggar’s cup.

I scatter your ashes.
Be the gale teaching autumn
to mend its ways,
or leopard so proud of his spotted coat.

Be the mentor of cherry trees.

I cast your dust far and wide,
a sower broadcasting seed:
Be wild rose or hellebore or all-heal.

Descend as a vein of silver,
never to be seen,
deep in the lynx-eyed earth.

Rise as barn owl white as dusk;
dove or raven marvelling at his flight.
Know different delights.

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Sandgrain and Hourglass

By Penelope Shuttle. Published by Bloodaxe Books, 2010

‘Sandgrain and Hourglass’, charts a variety of transactions between poet-self and wound, between

wound and beast. A major preoccupation is her continuing experience of loss, particularly the way

time modulates and redefines grief.


Some aspects of human experience can be too painful or difficult to bear except through poetry. As

Ted Hughes said, "poetry is a way of speaking to people we've lost when it is too late". In these poems

as in her previous book ‘Redgrove's Wife’ Shuttle continues such conversations with her husband

Peter Redgrove, her father Jack Shuttle, and her close friend L.H.S., among others.


"A wonderful book of poetry of love and loss by Penelope Shuttle about her late husband, poet

Peter Redgrove. It spoke to me very strongly, having lost my own husband not so long ago."


Maureen Lipman, Daily Express


Penelope Shuttle’s new collection ‘Will You

Walk a Little Faster?’ published to celebrate

her 70th birthday on 12 May 2017.

Penelope Shuttle has made her home in Cornwall

since 1970 and the county’s mercurial weather and

rich history are continuing sources of inspiration.

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