Vivien Foulkes-James lives in North Lancashire by the coast. She writes mainly poetry and some short fiction. She is a founder member of Bare Writers, a local writing group. Vivien has been successful in publishing in magazines including Reach Poetry, The Galway Review, Dawntreader and Sarasvati and in The League Against Cruel Sport’s Anthology, For the Silent.

Taking Advice from Billy Collins

Finally, after days spent cleaning upstairs
and downstairs and the bathroom,
not to mention all the days where
I was needed to work in the garden.
Chores that were just so pressing
they couldn’t be put off,
I sit down in front of a blank page.

I haven’t yet taken to sorting out
the surrounding fields and hedgerows.
But who knows, in time that may happen.

Instruction books of rules
don’t really help and of course,
rules are meant to be broken.

As for endings, I must try to get in,
some brown hens standing in the rain.

*Inspired by ‘Advice to Writers’ and ‘The Student’
by Billy Collins

On Leaving Thornfield Hall

All is silent now apart from the
easterly wind whistling through the casements
and the scratching of my pen on this notepaper.
Soon the disturbances from the upper floors will start.
Until the commotion subsides, sleep will be impossible.

Glancing round this room now, my sanctuary,
can this really be my last night here?
I used to be so grateful to you,
finally earning my keep doing the job I loved.
I was flattered you sought me out,
looked forward to our time together.
I thought it was a meeting of minds,
now I realise you wanted so much more.
You are more than twice my age and my employer,
you hold all the cards, this is not a union of equals.

This house holds its secrets,
questions hang unanswered in the corridors,
whispers echo from room to room and
the treads of the backstairs keep their terrible truths.

Sir, I could never marry.
I had only one true love and she was cruelly taken from me.


On the Day of the Queen’s Funeral

On the day of the funeral,
being neither in mourning nor
wishing to pay my respects,
I needed to escape
the blanket coverage,
the compulsory sorrowing.

To step out into the peace
and stillness of the garden
into the soft September sun,
was the perfect antidote.
No talk of crowds or queues
no reverential commentators
nor medieval shenanigans.

Immersing myself in the work
I was completely absorbed,
the sun gentle on my back.
At the top of the garden
the box had laid empty.
I checked the bedding
to make an inviting home.
Lifting the lid, I saw
a collection of spines
sticking up through the hay.

On the night of the funeral,
uplifted by my achievements
and the delightful discovery –
nature had worked its magic.

One very old woman was finally laid to rest.
While oblivious in his des res
the hedgehog soundly sleeps.