Louise Wilford – 2 poems

Being a squid in the early hours


He’s there –  and I am suddenly aware,

as if a thread’s pulled taut in my chest

tugging me awake, of the dust-dark twilight

in which we sleep.  He grins and clambers 


in, dragging his dinosaur cushion with him

just in case, rolls over me to nestle in the valley

between our aging bodies, feet kicking down

beneath the sheet. He sleeps tight against 


my back, even though it’s spring-time hot.

He’ll turn in the early hours, resting his head

against my waist, his feet on Philip’s side

like a footrest. Then later he’ll turn back, cling 


like one of Harlow’s monkeys to its wire mother

to protect him from a dream. And in the early hours,

face inches from mine, he’ll grin and say:

‘Is it morning now?  Can we play at being a squid?’ 


He’s simply there – and the hours ahead unspool.

Awake in the dust-dark twilight, unable to sleep

with his hot young heart beside me, for the love

I feel for this child, who isn’t mine, who isn’t 


even my child’s child, I stare at the shadows.

Our great-nephew, three years old, has no inkling,

thank god, what his life brings to our old bones,

too late, the joy of the child we couldn’t have. 


All he knows is that, at dawn, his uncle

will pretend to be the tickling squid and I

will save him.  He’ll never know I never sleep

these nights, too stunned at how he saved us.






I burned the buildings down

blew up the bridges into town

and as I pushed you out the door

I felt a screw drop to the floor.


I lit the cannon’s fuse

even though I knew I’d lose

and when I pressed the starter switch

I could feel a rope unhitch. 


I screamed into your face

with no thought of time or place

and as I fumbled for the map

I could feel the last thread snap.


And I knew the waves would take me

spin me out and maybe break me

but I couldn’t stop the blast –

I just clung on to the mast


hoping I’d drift home at last.




Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford has had over 100 poems and short stories published in magazines including Acumen, OWP, The Stinging Fly, Dreamcatcher and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions, most recently the £750 Arts Quarterly Prize 2020 and the 2019 MereFest Poetry Prize.  She is currently nearing the end of a Masters degree in Creative Writing with the Open University. She is a teacher, and is currently working on a fantasy novel for teenagers. She is a member of Kip Writers, a small group of novelists who began as colleagues at a private tutorial centre. You can find her blog at and find her on Twitter @LouiseWilford.


Louise Wilford – 1 poem



Attaching the brittle globes to wire –

lime green against sky blue against blood red –

I think of how their shine picks up the fire

of the candle flame.  ‘I hate Christmas,’ you said,


‘It’s so lightweight – the emptiness, the  greed.’

You made me think of hollow rooms,

of risen soufflés, sky-blown seeds,

of fluttering sparks left spitting through the gloom.


I hang the cards, suspend the wassailing balls,

drape tinsel, fit the glitter-ball in place –

it slowly turns, its glinting mirrored walls

shedding fractured glimpses of my face.


We never could decide which stuff was yours.

The emptiness? The greed? The bubble burst?

As I blu-tack tinsel over all the doors,

I wonder which of us was actually the worst.






Yorkshirewoman Louise Wilford  is an English teacher and examiner.  She has had around 60 poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshots, Pushing Out The BoatThe Stinging Fly, Acumen and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions.  She is currently writing a children’s fantasy novel.