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Three Poems by Cathy Stonehouse - Shining Like An Apple On Fire

Shining Like An Apple On Fire


Three Poems by Cathy Stonehouse

Our Father, the Cartographer

After you had left us, had moved on from this world –

your spirit quiet as a knife in its sheath, blunt enough

to be drawn across the hand – after you had left us

only gargoyles grinning from roofs, pitchfork-wielding 

gods, the fallen angel, had lured us sheer

to the rim of this cratered earth,

had eaten of our sorrow, spat its bones out,

even redrawn our very map of the world – networks of shadow 

across the bed, your hand before the nightlight’s light  –

had warped our continents and distances, shrunken our ice caps,

swollen our oceans, leveled forests, washed out deserts,

diverted rivers, poisoned lakes and renamed countries

only to lay them back again to waste –

after you had truly come and gone,

had left us only shadows of your finery

deep in the dressing-up box of our skin, only then

could we know you as you really were, could we see

in your corpse the grandeur of the body,

broken now, and bloodied, shriveled down at last:

a tiny thing.



Welcome Jesus,

You talk just like my dad,

i.e. you’re a Geordie.

Out in the world I carry a bird

Who warns me about noxious gases

Emitted by adjectives adverbs

and other ghosts.

Jesus, are you still in there?

At night my dad wraps vowels round his fingers

And goes on mining for northern working-class


Despite the fact that no one else

Thinks it exists.


The Snowman

He had the coldest of hands.

I look down a shrinking tunnel

At the dazzling sight of him, breath smoke

Livid as he patiently moves

The sticks of my small body around.

I did not expect him to wake like this.

He has taken out the coals of his eyes

Ripped out his carrot stick nose

Removed the red scarf that separates head from neck

And become all snow: his voice, his teeth

Still glittering. Ticklish at first, then anxious,

Hoary fingers holding me down as he peels off

My cold weather clothes.

It’s as if he’s trying to press me

To his own fat shape. As he enters

There’s a ripping 

And I try to remember the field’s surface

Compacted by my own hands into ice,

Each rolled ball collected in a long bandage:

Now his face breaks off in pieces,

Clearer and clearer becoming not my own.

The world pressed flat

Into a framed picture, my limbs elongate,

Distant and overexposed. 

When I reach for my lips

I cannot find them—

I need to find some stones

For eyes, a row of small pebbles

For my mouth: I know I’ll have to lie,

Later on.