Married on Bonfire Night

Married on Bonfire Night

My Nanna and Grandad 

Gunpowder their love

Toffee their kisses

Sparking the night

Inseparable as pie and peas

And I will always feel the heat

See the flames

Hear the crackle

Their hands joined warming forever.

© Jennifer Winterburn



A treat’s deceit

Glass domes

Laminate teeth

Kernel shards wedge

Foundations through gum

Styrofoam clouds

Whirl around tongue

Sugary syrup

And sometimes some blood

Lacerating confection

Is always too good.


© Jennifer Winterburn

The tip

The tip

The tip trip

The trip to the tip

Recycling that

Which once was crammed

Into the face of the earth

Can now be revered

For those seeking redemption

Enter the recycling reverie

The tip of human endeavour

Oh consumer of all

A cathedral of waste

Those tombs of the dead

Rubble, metal, paint

And tyred mausoleums

Queue up and pay your respects

Atone and do penance

Shuffling head bowed

Weighted redistribution of sin

Absolved and vindicated

Feel better and lighter

A good deed done

And room in the house

But faith faltering

This is still not enough.


© Jennifer Winterburn



Those scruffy little city dwellers

Ganging up

And flying in the face

Of diversity

Scrapping over a Greggs pasty

With the power to stop

Those zombie commuters in their tracks

Heads down and bobbing


You are late for work

No they wont move

Go around

Or prepare to be feather slapped

Sometimes they die

Slamming into windows

They leave a dirty angel shape.


Jennifer Winterburn

My last post was October 2016…

…I have still been writing poetry, but I didn’t feel like sharing. Opening up. Had enough of exposure. Wrong kinds. Wallowed a little in myself. Could blame Tamoxifen body shocking. It was easy to cut myself off. No one noticed. I feel a bit more myself now, slowly day by day, if anyone wants to read a poem they might start showing on this half abandoned feed. Hey there to all my old friends, I’m still breathing.

Gratuitous guilt

Gratuitous guilt

Self sabotage

Internal agonising


Self forgiveness

Responsibility for others

Survivors guilt

Intention intuition


They say stop being so hard on yourself

As human as the rest of us


Forced upon you


High Self ideals

Emotional punishment


Self subjugation

Self degrading


Self contempt

You should have


Unconditional love and forgiveness.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Two magic wands

Two magic wands

And some spun sheep’s clothing

Whisper the magic words

In over through and off

Chanting and ceremony

In over through and off

Rote ritual memory

In over through and off

Tick tack tick trickery

In over through and off

Taut transforming artery

In over through and off

Bound to my family

Locked into memory

Animal labour slavery

Hides the shame of humanity

Into this world innocently

Over the years inexorably

Through sorrow and hilarity

And off again so prematurely.

© Jennifer Winterburn

We barely recognise ourselves

We barely recognise ourselves

Years of running wild

Too poor to get the right kit

Rubbish waterproofs

Letting in bog water

But having fun anyway

And here we are

With our proper outdoor threads

With a real good rucksack

And we can’t stop giggling

Because now we are proper

Real total fraggles

Oh yes

Fraggle sticks for us

Fraggles marching uphill

With the right equipment

We’re flying along

And we barely recognise ourselves.

© Jennifer Wilson



Your young life mirrored grandads

Whose mother left father and children

You both had an older sister Jennifer

You both had nothing but you did have love

Neither of you knew what to do with it though

Grandad was rescued by Nanna

But you would be abandoned again

Grandad gave love like secret gifts

He’d say come here, look at this

And pull from a pocket an Old Penny

A piece of string a pound coin

A quick burst of hug and a hair rub

But you give love like a tsunami

Like a close range blast full force

Leaving shards of shrapnel deep inside

Like you couldn’t get enough

To feel real and complete and safe

When you played up as a kid

Grandma would call you Careless

She couldn’t have been more wrong

Frustration and anger you had

From losing your mother protector

You cared too much

You still do

You love too quickly

Too much and too deep

And this life is so hard

And so full of hurtful people

It will keep punishing you

But the one thing that matters

Not money, a job

Not houses and cars

Is the love you push out

Trying to balance the pain

This world caused you

I always wanted to save you

But it was you who saved me.


© Jennifer Winterburn

My brothers and sisters

My brothers and sisters are my best friends

Professional wrestlers

Well-meaning hair dressers

Thieves and benefactors

Highly trained combat

Personnel and the deadliest

Ninja ticklers on the planet

They can stick their foot right in

Make everything better with a hug

They are tour guides, nurses,

Rock stars and paparazzi

Teachers, snitchers,

Button stitchers





© Jennifer Winterburn



The world laments

Your past magnificence

Nearly 7 metres of wing

Giant of the wind

If I could see you glide

I would cry with awe

Imagining the crow

Blown up to your size

Landing in the street

Or flying past my window

The size of a big family car

Sure you might eat me

But wow I wish you were here.


© Jennifer Winterburn

One ear blocked

One ear blocked

Distorted water world

One ear bombarded

Where two shared the burden

Brain friction

Background buzz

Distract and distort

Abstraction alone

Isolated ignorance

Interpretation imagined

Sound confusion

Not like being abroad

Not like anonymity

Just lost and alone

In a sea sound soup.


© Jennifer Winterburn


Nany, Babcia, Julia

Polish Grandmother

Not mine

But ours

Then to be loved by

And to love

Now to miss

A painful space

Your face

Soft soft cheek I kissed

Soft soft hand I kissed

Your blessing at my back

Your smile

Hard come by

But joy burst

Your giggle

Cheeky humour

Your life

Hardship with glamour

Impossible to sum up

But such belief

Who will pray for me now?

© Jennifer Winterburn

When the leaves

When the leaves

Sneak indoors

For the winter

And the rain

Sprinkles from clothing

Like diamonds and glitter

When the wind

Blows right through you

Like you’re not even there

Tangling you up

In bursts of strong air

And the leaves

And the birds

Share the sky equally

And the air smells

Of dirt, and of fire

And mortality

And you wrap yourself up

In layers of warm

And worry about those

With nothing at all

Those people

Too many

Who huddle in doorways

With wet blankets

And starving eyes

Glancing sideways

There is no reason

For them to be there

No reason at all

And there is nothing

They say can be done

By Whitehall

The banks put up spikes

In their luxury doorways

These people have nothing

And get no leeway

Like the leaves

They are cast

Far and away

To gather in places

Withered and tossed

Where community humanity

Belonging is lost

To wait for a break

From the sorrow they own

The one possession

They don’t want to know

Because everyone struggles

And everyone falls

One time or another

With no one to call

Or the hurt is too deep

You find you’re alone

On the floor in a heap

And the hurt feels so strong

And nothing else does

So the cold on the floor

And the mould on the crumb

Don’t matter at all

And before you realise

You’re sinking in leaves

And you’re trapped in the fall.


© Jennifer Winterburn






Off to germ fest 3000

Off to germ fest 3000

On the plague train

Piddly packet tissues

Abandoned for whole rolls

Snot rags piled up

Like snow drift

Miss how things taste

Miss effortless breathing

Skin abandons the face

Red scrunch paper hands

Tissue head

Tissue skin

Tissue stuffing spills out.


© Jennifer Winterburn


I’ve had some colds

I even had cancer once

But what was a shock

Was how easily forgot

Those sick feels

The vomit drain

The skin sting

The please please stop now

Of the really sick days

So forgettable

Yes I was sick

But it is gone

And I have come to realise

It is the same with poverty

So forgettable

Left behind in another life

That day I couldn’t get food

That day I had no bus fare

All that time trapped in non-life

Suspended without cash

That’s a shared thing

Between the healthy and the rich

You forget the bad times

It’s not that bad

So forgettable

So with empathy

The sick help the sick

The poor help the poor

Because the rich

If ever they were

Cannot even recall

That thing so forgettable

Being poor.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Those old poetry dudes

Those old poetry dudes

They could sum it all up

Make a share of society

Shared feels

Shared lives

Shored up

Today we stand alone

Individuals on individuals

So special

We can’t connect

Or won’t

Not sure yet

But it’s habit forming

When everyone shares

Online On-life

No one wants to share

Offline Off-life

My feels this

Your feels that

So no more waste land

War food nature

Smell taste feel

Deluded you

Despair me

No more connect

Just me just you

And nothing between

I want to return

To the waste land with you.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Childhood games

Childhood games



Monopoly with dad

Bikes shiny new

From grandparents

For xmas

Playing animals

On the planes

Or dinosaurs

Playing libraries


Tiny card slots

Into Ladybird books

Borrowing my

Parents first cd/cassette/radio player

And scripting and recording

Our own radio shows

Swings slides

Bouncy balls

For hours

Dens under beds

Under tables

In corners

Forts castles caves

Meccano lego

Fuzzy felt

And puzzles

Play Doh

And always


It was better

Felt tip pens

And colouring-

in books

Usborne books

Where’s Wally?

Magic eyes

Tonka toys

And remote

Control cars

Pet hamsters

And gerbils

With their own

Toys too.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Hazel you are not forgotten

Hazel you are not forgotten

Your neighbours remember you

We talk of you sometimes

You were a good, sweet person,

Life was too hard for you

Your wild flowing hair

Your strange, draped clothing

You didn’t like those beasties

That lived in your garden

Of weeds and wildness

But that is where we met and talked

Looking out past the giant poplar row

Over the rugby pitch

Towards the waterworld beyond

The big sky always over us

You lived alone and laughed

So loud and wonderfully

At the TV late into the night

You knew your neighbours

Your curtains stayed shut

When you died alone

Your family visited finally and wept

The water was running

Our homes were closer

To the water than we realised

I am sorry I did not know

For a week

I hadn’t seen you

I think of you

And smile

Because you did not fit

This world

But you enjoyed yourself

And I keep you close

To keep me safe

And never change

The way they want you

Because happiness is hard.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Bradford Jesus Man

Bradford Jesus Man

Jesus’ man

Happy with that name

Because he was

Jesus’ man

Geoffrey Brindley

Hemp smock

Always Jesus’ fashion

Walking the streets of Bradford

Not so preacher man

But gentle peace radiator

Smile and wave

Sparkling eyes

Be kind and present

Be friends and people

Connecting in kindness

So little in the world

We miss you Jesus’ man.


© Jennifer Winterburn

She is a little tight

She is a little tight

Angry ball

The fakery it takes

To speak civil like

To folk is mind numbing

Shivering cold stare

Warm up and be

Sees red and feels acid

Yellow spiked and not easy

The woman is being nice

About her

Misbehaviour in a work meeting

Time waste but she looks

And oh big big smile

Show those teeth and look nice

And sweet with those eyes

The woman isn’t trying to be cross

No one ever does

No one would cross her

With anger they don’t dare scared

She wonders can they see her

Mad her

Scarred and

Demented feels flow too strong to stem.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Arm tickle

Arm tickle

Brush over

Small sensation

Look and see

A tiny speck

Of fluff…

With legs

Sprung out

Each side

Sorry spider

Sits crouched

On the table

In the centre

Of a gigantic

Room I

Wonder where

You’ll make

Your home

Resting from

The brush off

You pick

Yourself up

And trundle

Across the


Climb down

The flowing

Edge and

You’re on

Your way!


© Jennifer Winterburn


Theresa I remember you

I climbed the stairs of

The old folk’s home

Holding the tray of food

I had made for you

Could already hear

Down the hallway

The dance music blaring

From your radio

In the shared room

All alone

I come in and smile

At your sweet face

I put down the tray

I switch the radio

Over and think

About the horrible staff

Who put that on

And left you

They leave you up here

In bed alone

All day, most days,

You cause trouble

You are rude to other

People’s visitors

You never get your own

No one cares

When you see me

You smile and your eyes sparkle

I sit beside you and give you

My time, I am seventeen and

Have plenty. You are over seventy

And have plenty too

We lean in and chat and

Hand squeezing

You say to me

‘Doesn’t your husband mind you coming to see me?

Oh he must complain!’

Oh Theresa

Sweetheart keep believing

Because I have no husband

And I work here

But let’s both believe

I am visiting you

Because I want to and I

Will spend some time

And hope I don’t

Get caught

Missing from the kitchen

Eat your scrambled eggs

Oh invalid eggs

And keep going

You look sleepy

And I leave you


With sweet classical

Sounds this time

And know please Theresa

You filled me up

You helped me know

You made me stronger

To rage and be yourself

And don’t play nice

Even if others are mean

And they will be mean

Don’t roll over

Don’t just shut up

But be difficult

Be honest

Because it means you are alive

In this non-living place.


© Jennifer Winterburn

I am the

I am the

Clashing fashions of clothing behaviour headphone music

Accents voices language mixed up

In one place for many reasons

I am the

Smells girl sweet perfume boy bad BO

Sneaked in hot meals

Pizza boxes juice bottles sweet wrappers

Overflowing from bins

I am the

Speed trip to grab that hold

Pay that fine then

GO! Shopping pub work

As the library slots in neat

I am the

Daylong session food for the long haul

Shoes off and under the table piles of books

Shifting papers laptop screen

I am the

Different ages the different lives the different reasons

Any help they need

I am the

One week to hand in deadline

One hour to hand in deadline


I am the

Pace of learning doing supporting

I am the

Never alone zone the cog in each academic year

The seasons of learning in the academic year

I am the

Library organic response to the demanding lover

The University.


© Jennifer Winterburn

The teeth

The white bone boulders

Like little Easter islanders

Gazing out to the world

Half buried in flesh

Cursed like any organic

To fail in cracks and fissures

Fine comrades standing together

Always the weaker ones

Undermine the old order

And falling away slowly

Crumbling, splitting, loosened

No real age but hard working

Feel the gaps of lost friends.


© Jennifer Winterburn

If you talk proper

If you talk proper

You lose the bond

The closeness

Of really belonging

Like when my grandma

Would say Our kid,

Our Leslie, Our Paul,

Our Bethany, Our Scott,

All of us belonging

Like possessions

Owned and hers

And when you talk proper

It’s not right to add ‘Our’

To folks names

Which is sad

Cos you need to

Talk proper

To get by

But getting by

Means change

And so you lose


But really

Everyone loses something

Because they lose

The connection

The belonging

The possession

Which seems to be

A reasonable sacrifice

To get on

To do well

But I’m not so sure.


© Jennifer Winterburn

I run

I run

Down the corridors at work

When I am not in a rush.

I sit

Cross legged on the floor

When there are free seats.

I say

The made up children’s words

From long ago no one understands.

I listen

To a song one time

And I know all the words.

I taste

The rain, the snowflakes

And touch trees and stone buildings.

I feel

Nature and so happiness

And my rock collection grows.

I store

My treasures, my leaves, rocks, shells

Husks, books and twine.

I love

The big sky, the big earth

The big love like a breath exploding my lungs.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Widening participation

Widening participation

Hands off me and my education


Having potential

Judge me fit for retention

Subject of and subject to

Bright and disadvantaged

How dare you

I am differently advantaged

I am different

But I want to join the club

The same as everyone else

I feel unworthy

I feel wrong

But then those tutors

With sparks for eyes

Love me the most

I am passion

I am drive

I am climbing

In spite of life

So thanks for the label

Derogatory discourse

To help me

You harm me

You point to me

You there

Need help?

I’m the success story

Wow a good statistic

Dunce among peers


That will help

Privilege and value

Normal abnormal

Now I don’t fit anywhere.


© Jennifer Winterburn

If I eat cheese

If I eat cheese

And I think

Will this give me cancer

Then just thinking it

Could make it so

And so if it comes back

Must I always wonder

Was it the dairy

The wine

Not enough a day

Of what I should

Too much should not.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Three years old

Three years old

Fists full of dog hair

As I cling mid-wobble

That is my earliest memory

1980s childhood in Bradford City centre

A TV and icicles on the inside

Of my bedroom window

Sticky smiles and my teddy

And then the starving kids in Africa

Just behind the glass

Bellies so large so empty

Eyes so hungry

I could not comprehend

And still cannot

When people starve

And others throw away.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Spider in my shoe

Spider in my shoe

Spider in my shoe

A big hairy beastie

Oh I don’t know what to do!

I dropped the shoe upon the floor

The spider ran towards the door

Then I felt horribly mean

Making that little spider homeless and poor

What would it be like?

To have my home tipped upright?

To fall out of my house

Watch them slide their foot in tight?

That’s my home there on your foot!

Thrown out, kicked out so abrupt

Oh what am I to do?

My home has gone kaput!

If you don’t know what to do

When a beast makes home inside your shoe

I don’t have much advice

You may need a wardrobe review!


© Jennifer Winterburn

Pull myself up

Pull myself up and right out of myself

Who am I?

Not that woman sat on the sofa

Pen in hand

Not a creeping woman

Just unknown

I am alien

Trapped in this body

And I want to go home

But my home was taken from me

In exile from myself

Maps and other scraps of evidence

Torn and shredded

I become adsorbed by jigsaws

Satisfied to piece order from chaos



© Jennifer Winterburn

I have a thing about elephants

I have a thing about elephants

I like that they are smart and strong

I like their matriarchal community

Where knowledge, empathy, memory, love

Are so highly valued

I love their saggy skin

It looks comfortable

I like their moving noses

Kissing the world as they go

Those eyelashes like rope

Those feet like sandbags

A heart too big for this world

Born to love and so to suffer.


© Jennifer Winterburn


When it happened the J dropped

The J-em J-oy gone

Slowly layers were taken from me

The EN-ergy ouch

Then my mind

That IF of life

That happy wondering

Thinking thought

Words and wisdom

Dreams and desires

And so abrupt

The fur the FER

Lost my coat

Worse than shorn

Eyebrows and lashes

Are human are living

And then comes time


Tick tock

Day month year


Life time

So I start to rewind

The tide of time

And it goes the same way

Easing in

So slow


And so the return

The fur the FER

Looking more healthy

Less weird day by day

The IF is more subtle

Grasping at what…

The EN-ergy is rising

Like a disco hit

I don’t know what’s coming next

But the J is elusive illusive

Aloof and

In hiding

In storage

Safe keeping

But I think that with


Life time

The J will return.


© Jennifer Winterburn

Cardboard Hill

Cardboard hill

The legend

The perfection in geography

Just down from our house

Rough wasteland of frogs and foxes

We called Mile’s Rough

There she was

The perfect hill

Perfect height

Perfect steepness

Perfect short grass

Never mown

Just perfectly grown

Super smooth

And wide enough for races

In summer once she dried out

(no one wanted to fall in a bog)

We took our weapon

Saved that cardboard box

From Dad’s cellar

Gran’s new microwave

It didn’t matter

Just not too small is all

And carried them down

To Mile’s Rough

To our perfect hill

Our Cardboard Hill

Morning two, three kids

By lunch twelve, fifteen kids

Simple really

Climb to the top

Sit on your cardboard

Like a sled on snow

Cling to the edges

Right at the top

Then off you go


So fast almost vertical

Eyes watering

Grass staining

As you tumble at the end

Wow. Who won?

Good fun

In winter we sled but

It was always cardboard hill

Faster harder tougher

No snow to break your fall

Sometimes little kids would need

Walking home from too much fun

Now it’s a site of scientific interest

You should have seen us play.


© Jennifer Winterburn


Welcome to the club

Welcome to the club

Ooh I’ve never

Been in a club before

Unless you count the Weetabix Club

Well, you’re gonna love this then

Why, what’s so special?

Oh it’s very exciting

You won’t know for certain

What may happen next

It could be anything

With the edginess of death

Ever present to remind you

Of your membership

First things first

A taste of mortality

You’re under 30?

Never mind, we take all kinds.

Oh you never felt sick?

We can sort that right out

But before we begin

You must be blessed with the scar

The club badge of honour

Forever at your breast

Surgeon your tools

Oh you don’t feel a thing?

You can get used to that now

You will never again

And now that’s all done

You didn’t plan to be a mum?

Yes. Oh such a shame

Life or birth, could you complain?

We harvest for eggs

While you’re off your head

Then comes the true test

Of your membership in our club

The magic elixir

To make you sink deeper

To forget yourself

And think only of death

As a relief from the pain

That binds us together

And we can judge whether

You suit your hair gone

Oh and most go along

Wearing scarves, wigs and caps

Our proud uniform

Our tortured skin

Welcome sisters, brothers

We welcome all in

Some stay forever

Some only a while

That thought ever present

Hanging off a mortal coil.


© Jennifer Winterburn