Guest Poem by Gill McEvoy

Gill McEvoy has two pamphlets from HappenStance Press: Uncertain Days ( 2006) and A Sampler (2008). First collection The Plucking Shed (2010) from Cinnamon Press. Second collection Rise (2013), also Cinnamon Press. She runs several regular events in Chester: Zest! an open floor poetry night (the full team: Judy Ugonna, Leih Steggall and Angela Topping); the Poem Shed, a workshop group; the Golden Pear poetry reading group; and Poem Catchers, jointly with Judy Ugonna. She was previously Artistic Director for the spoken word section of Chester Literature Festival. She has appeared on Sky Arts TV, speaking about free verse as opposed to formal verse. Gill has given readings of her work in London, Sussex, Manchester, Liverpool, Richmond, York, Newtown, Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Much Wenlock, as well as locally. She also collaborates with singer Polly Bolton to produce ‘sung and read’ shows. She is a Hawthornden Fellow.

Ivy Wreaths are Multiplying by the River in the Woods

This is a lonely path, and that’s what I prefer:
a chance to watch the dipper in the stream,
the deer come down to drink,
the wren that bobs along the bank.
But lately all my pleasure’s spoiled by ivy wreaths
hung mysteriously along the way.

Whoever made them did so with great skill,
twining the supple lengths together
three strands at a time, tying them off
with a clever twist of stem. Some of them still fresh,
and some so small they’d fit a child’s wrist,
each one a perfect circle.

I ask about them in the village
but no-one seems to know: they say
they have not noticed them, or never
walk that way. And yet I sense evasion
in their words, even those who cry
“Oh, secret art, how wonderful!”

Someone knows, I’m sure, in this, a county
of peculiar beliefs, where even walls
are carved with marks to ward off witchcraft
and the evil eye. They know, but will not say.
I reach a hand to lift one down, then stop,
my mind is screaming ‘No, Don’t touch! Don’t touch –
you don’t know what you might be bringing home!’

I tell myself they must be blessings on the trees,
a pleasant fiction and I half believe, until I find
all night they loom and terrorise my sleep.